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Wetlands are the most productive ecosystems in the world, yet they have suffered more loss and degradation than any other ecosystem. Not surprisingly, 50% (29 of 58) of all the bird species in the U. S. (excluding Hawaii and territories) that are listed either as federally threatened or endangered, or are on the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1995 List of Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern, occupy wetland or aquatic habitats even though many remaining wetlands across the North American landscape already are managed primarily for waterbirds. Some of these wetlands are administered by federal and state entities (e.g., national wildlife refuges, national and state parks, state wetland management areas) or are maintained on private lands through federally supported restoration and enhancement programs (e.g., Conservation Reserve Program, Wetland Reserve Program, Waterfowl Production Areas, and Partners for Wildlife). Private organizations, such as the National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and private hunting clubs, also own wetland areas that are managed specifically to benefit wildlife. If management philosophies are altered to consider the entire complex of wetlands, many wetlands can provide benefits to a broad array of waterbirds, as opposed to just one or a few species. However, challenges for natural resource managers are in forming partnerships with owners-managers of wetlands where the objectives are not primarily wildlife oriented. These owners or managers need to be included in wetland training workshops in an attempt to educate them about wetland values and secondary wildlife benefits that may be derived in flooded agricultural lands, aquaculture ponds, altered coastal marshes (mosquito control), and salt evaporation ponds. In some cases, compensation for crop damages by wildlife may be a necessary part of any cooperative agreements. In the development of a North American Bird Conservation Plan we propose a four-step approach and recommend that emphasis be placed on working with Joint Ventures of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to ensure that a diverse array of waterbird species will benefit. Efforts also should be devoted to developing similar partnerships in areas where important wetland resources exist but no Joint Ventures are planned.
Additional Publication Details
Managing wetlands for waterbirds: How managers can make a difference in improving habitat to support a North American Bird Conservation Plan
U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station