Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

March 18, 2011


Contacts: Connie Mueller: 701.848.2722, ext. 17;

                  Kristen Brennan: 701.848.2722, ext. 24;

                  Leith Edgar: 303.236.4588;


Alkali Lakes Piping Plover Team receives Recovery Champion Award 


Members of the Alkali Lakes Piping Plover Team received 2010 Recovery Champion awards today in honor of their ongoing conservation of the Federally-threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus).


The Alkali Lakes Piping Plover Team consists of National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) staff and a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The team’s efforts to recover the piping plover date back to 1983 – two years before the species was first Federally listed. Since that time, the team has restored prairie habitat that has benefited a range of wildlife in Montana and North Dakota. The population of piping plovers in the area has nearly doubled as a result of the team’s efforts.


For their conservation accomplishments on behalf of the threatened species, team members are receiving Recovery Champion awards. These awards are given to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) staff and their partners whose work advances the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in the United States.


“Recovery Champions are leaders in the conservation of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals across the United States and beyond its borders,” said Acting Director of the Service, Rowan Gould. “It is a true measure of a steadfast commitment to protecting our nation’s biological heritage for future generations by helping to recover our imperiled species of fish and wildlife and plants and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”


The piping plover is dependent on the Alkali Lakes ecosystem and nests on the Missouri River. While some birds nest on refuge lands, most breed on the shorelines of alkali lakes on private and non-profit lands such as The Nature Conservancy’s Williams Preserve – a 2,100-acre property purchased primarily to protect piping plovers. The team has developed ongoing relationships with more than 150 private landowners, who allow plover monitors to access their land regularly. Plover monitors erect cages to protect nests from predators and monitor breeding success, tracking breeding pairs from the time they establish a territory until the chicks fledge. 


The piping plover population has responded positively to these management actions. The United States alkali lakes population has nearly doubled since the mid-1980s. In addition to increasing the piping plover population, the actions to improve plover habitat benefit other grassland and shorebird species, many of which are suffering severe declines.


In the off-season, the team actively works on the refuges, TNC land, and with private landowners to take long-term management actions that benefit piping plovers. Activities include: fencing beaches and providing alternate water sources for cattle so that nests and chicks are not crushed by cattle, burying or removing rock and junk piles that house piping plover predators, uprooting trees in the nearby prairie to remove raptor perches, and replanting areas with prairie to reduce runoff and sedimentation in the alkali lakes.


A list of the Alkali Lakes Piping Plover Team members who received 2010 Recovery Champion awards follows:


Brent Jamison

Medicine Lake NWR

Medicine Lake, Montana


Kirsten Brennan

Lostwood NWR

Kenmare, North Dakota


Michael Rabenberg

Long Lake NWR

Moffit, North Dakota


Craig Hultberg

Audubon NWR

Coleharbor, North Dakota


Connie Mueller

Lostwood NWR

Kenmare, North Dakota


Eric Rosenquist


Cross Ranch Nature Preserve

Center, North Dakota


For additional information about the 2010 Recovery Champions, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Champion website at


America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit


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