New Government Initiative Will Benefit 10-State Effort To Save Declining Songbird

Friday, March 09, 2012
Golden-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
- photo by Laura Erickson

The new “Working Lands For Wildlife” (WLW) project announced Friday by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture will provide substantial benefits to birds and other wildlife, but will be especially beneficial to the imperiled Golden-winged Warbler.

The WLW project will provide a huge boost for a Golden-winged Warbler conservation effort in the eastern U.S. involving dozens of organizations across ten states. The effort is being facilitated by the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), and American Bird Conservancy (ABC). Partners include federal and state agencies, universities and not-for-profit conservation organizations. The Golden-winged Warbler effort is being carried out in the species’ Appalachian breeding range of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.

“The Golden-winged Warbler is one of the most seriously threatened, non-federally listed species in eastern North America. Everyone familiar with its plight should be excited about the WLW project and the opportunity it provides to better engage private landowners in the.  conservation effort. If we are going to have this bird around for future generations, we’re going to need both public and private collaboration,” said Brian Smith, AMJV coordinator and a wildlife biologist with ABC.

"The additional funding from the WLW project will provide for increased on-the-ground habitat restoration and conservation for the Golden-winged Warbler. These efforts will be complemented by technical expertise that AMJV partners will provide through monitoring the species’ response to habitat work, and the vital educational component designed to improve understanding of the importance of young forests and scrubby, open habitat to this bird,” Mr. Smith said.

In addition to benefits to the Golden-winged Warbler, the WLW will also boost conservation efforts for the Greater Sage-grouse, Lesser Prairie-chicken, and Southwestern Willow Flycatcher in the western and central U.S., as well as three non-bird species currently listed or proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act: the New England cottontail rabbit, bog turtle, and gopher tortoise.

This WLW project follows a sage-grouse initiative in the West that began nearly two years ago. The initiative is being delivered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through conservation programs in the Farm Bill, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, state fish and wildlife agencies, and other partners.

The Appalachian Mountains and the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region are the population strongholds for Golden-winged Warbler; however the species has undergone significant population declines throughout the greater Appalachian region due to loss, degradation, and modification of its preferred young forest habitat. Hybridization with the closely-related Blue-winged Warbler, nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, and deforestation on its wintering grounds in Central and South America are also factors in this species’ decline.

ABC has made the Golden-winged Warbler a major focus of its conservation work, and is coordinating conservation activities in both the US and in wintering ground sites in Central and South America.

ABC is working to boost Golden-winged populations in a number of ways, including participation in the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative - a coalition of federal and local agencies, citizens, and other groups dedicated to restoring forests on reclaimed mine sites in the eastern United States. These restored forests can provide much-needed habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler and other early-successional species such as the American Woodcock. Also, ABC works closely with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group to develop and deliver on-the-ground projects throughout the species’ range.

ABC is also working with partners in Latin America to restore essential wintering habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler through cooperative efforts with local communities, coffee growers, and ranchers that promote bird-friendly practices such as silvipasture (the practice of combining forestry and grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way) and shade-grown coffee. ABC is also planting thousands of trees to restore native wintering habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler and other neotropical migrants.

FWS announced on June 2, 2011, that listing the Golden-winged Warbler under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted, and the Service is now initiating a full review of the species. In addition, many state fish and wildlife agencies within the Appalachian region have listed this bird as a species in greatest need of conservation within their states’ boundaries.

Before widespread European settlement of the Appalachian region, Golden-winged Warblers relied on young forest or open woodlands created by natural fires, natural disasters, or beavers. During the early and mid-part of the Twentieth Century, much of the region was cleared through timber harvesting, and later, through strip mining for coal. Second growth vegetation and revegetation of these areas resulted in habitats that were conducive to species such as the Golden-winged Warbler. Over time, these areas have matured or become dominated by species that do not provide the habitat structure that warblers need.

The WLW initiative will focus on creating and maintaining the types of habitat necessary to sustain breeding populations of warblers in and around their current breeding areas. This will include efforts designed to expand the existing Appalachian range of the species and increase the amount of available habitat throughout the Appalachians. Two particular challenges are that many key areas are located within a matrix of lands with mixed ownership and there are potential conflicts with regard to commercial timber harvests.

The AMJV is one of 18 habitat Joint Venture partnerships in the United States. The AMJV is comprised of state and federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industries who work together to ensure the long-term sustainability of native bird populations that breed in the Appalachian Mountains. 


2015-16 Sport Fishing Regulations Postponed Until December Meeting

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission postponed decisions on the 2015-16 sport fish regulations until its December meeting. The action came during the commission’s Oct. 29-20 meeting held in Greeneville at the General Morgan Hotel Conference Center. The TFWC also proposed an amendment to the sport fishing regulations (proclamation 14-17) that would change regulations to ... (click for more)

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Announces New Strategic Plan To Ensure A Bright Future

The  Appalachian Trail Conservancy   has announced a five-year strategic plan that will advance the health and long-term management of the Appalachian Trail. The plan, which was the culmination of a two-year collaborative process between the ATC and the ATC’s board of directors, is a vision and strategy that will build on the organization’s stewardship of the trail ... (click for more)

Chickamauga Lock To Reopen As Soon As Next Thursday

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  plans to reopen Chickamauga Lock to all navigation traffic as early as next Thursday. An inspection of the upper gate anchorage and a repair plan were completed today. Chickamauga Lock closed on Monday after a routine inspection revealed a crack in the anchorage of the upper gate. Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

A Vote For Education Is Critical In Tennessee

In a state where just 28 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math and 33 percent are proficient in reading according to national assessments, education is deserving of more attention in 2014 elections. Across the country, more parents are making informed decisions about their child’s education, but for Volunteer State parents without resources, choices are difficult to come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Saban: ‘Ratings Don’t Matter’

When the first College Football Playoff rankings were released earlier this week, Alabama football coach Nick Saban got it right on the button when he shrugged, “I don't even care, to be honest with you." "To me, none of it matters, What does it matter?” he laughed at the Tide’s No. 6 ranking. “I mean, it only matters where you end up at the end. So what matters to us is how ... (click for more)