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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Contacts: Karen Miranda Gleason 303/236-7917 x431
               Adrianna Araya 303/236-8155, x269

BIRDS: CATALYSTS FOR CONSERVATION
INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAY 2003

Birds have long inspired important conservation actions around the world, serving as the stimulus for public campaigns, new legislation, formation of environmental organizations, and individual action. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency responsible for the management of migratory birds, recognizes birds as "Catalysts for Conservation" in its annual celebrations of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) taking place around the country throughout the spring. At hundreds of events such as bird walks, open houses, festivals, lectures and demonstrations, the Service is joining with partners to recognize the ways birds have stimulated people to become involved in conservation and to encourage individuals, corporations, and organizations to be a part of continuing efforts to protect birds.

"Thanks to birds, and the individuals and organizations that worked for their conservation, we have made great progress in conserving wildlife and other natural resources is this country," said Service Director Steve Williams. "Birds have been the catalysts for many of the most significant conservation actions of the last century, including the formation of the Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System, international conservation treaties and partnerships, and the passage of wildlife protection laws."

More than 500 IMBD 2003 celebrations will take place at National Wildlife Refuges, fish hatcheries, field offices and at partnering organizations such as parks, zoos, and schools. The Service’s IMBD website http://birds.fws.gov/IMBD contains a listing of these events as well as links to additional information on migratory bird conservation, including the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. The IMBD 2003 art and materials portray ten bird species symbolizing conservation laws, programs, and organizations that have benefitted birds, the environment and humans alike.

The decline and extinction of the once-abundant passenger pigeon at the end of the 19th century launched a movement to conserve wildlife. The American Ornithologists’ Union was formed and the powerful Lacey Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act were passed to control the harvest of birds for food and the plume trade. For the same reasons, Theodore Roosevelt designated Pelican Island, Florida, as a federally protected bird reserve in 1903, starting today’s National Wildlife Refuge System, a 95-million-acre network of public lands set aside for wildlife, which is celebrating its Centennial Anniversary this year.

Wetland conservation in North America was prompted largely by a concern for waterfowl; beginning in the 1930s, the sale of Federal Duck Stamps became an important funding mechanism for the millions of acres of wetlands protected in this country. Birds served as "canaries in the coalmine"

in the 1960s and 1970s, when drastic declines in reproduction by ospreys and other birds at the top of the food chain alerted us to the environmental dangers associated with certain pesticides. Finally, migratory birds traveling across international borders require international cooperation, prompting partnerships that allow nations to work together to conserve a shared resource.

IMBD was created to bring attention to the plight of dozens of birds whose populations have declined at rates exceeding two percent per year (resulting in a net decline of 50 percent or more) over the last 30 years, due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and other factors. IMBD is the hallmark event of Partners in Flight, an international coalition created in 1990 that includes the Service, other federal and state wildlife agencies, conservation groups, academic institutions, corporations, and private citizens dedicated to reversing these declines in migratory bird populations. Contact your local refuge for their schedule. Some events in the Region include:

Colorado - Alamosa/Monte Vista NWR: All-day bird count, sunrise birding walks, mist net demonstrations

Montana - National Bison Range: Scenic wildlife drive opens for the summer season, bird hikes, speakers, and activities, over 1500 students from 40 schools visiting during month of May.

Wyoming - Seedskadee NWR: Blue bird house construction for kids, and guided birding tours.

North Dakota - Arrowwood and Long Lake NWRs: Prairie and Potholes Birding Festival for the Birding Drives Dakota in mid-June, celebrating during spring and early summer.

Kansas - Great Plains Nature Center: Environmental education center with exhibit hall, early morning bird walks through the month of May.

Utah - Fish Springs NWR: Refuge Discovery Weekend will include natural history seminars.

Nebraska - Crescent Lake/North Platte NWR: Project BIRD event for area 5th graders.

North and South Dakota - Waubay NWR, Sand Lake NWR, and Tewaukon NWRs: Wings and Wildlife Weekend, wildlife tours and educational activities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

-FWS-

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