Coordinated bird monitoring: Technical recommendations for military lands

Open-File Report 2010-1078

Prepared in cooperation with the DoD Natural Resources Program, Arlington, Virginia; Great Basin Bird Observatory, Reno, Nevada; U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Environmental Laboratory, Vicksburg, Mississippi; DoD Partners in Flight, Warrenton, VirginiaA Report Prepared for the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program Legacy Project # 05-246, 06-246, 07-246
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The Department of Defense (DoD) is subject to several rules and regulations establishing responsibilities for monitoring migratory birds. The Sikes Act requires all military installations with significant natural resources to prepare and implement Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs). These plans guide the conservation and long-term management of natural resources on military lands in a manner that is compatible with and sustains the military mission. An INRMP also supports compliance with all legal requirements and guides the military in fulfilling its obligation to be a good steward of public land.The management and conservation of migratory birds is addressed in installation INRMPs. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to evaluate and disclose the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions. More recently, DoD signed an MOU ( for migratory birds, under Executive Order 13186, with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in July 2006 and a Migratory Bird Rule ( was passed by Congress in February 2007. The Migratory Bird Rule addresses the potential impacts of military readiness activities on populations of migratory birds and establishes a process to implement conservation measures if and when a military readiness activity is expected to have a significant adverse impact on a population of migratory bird species (as determined through the NEPA process). The MOU states that for nonmilitary readiness activities, prior to initiating any activity likely to affect populations of migratory birds DoD shall (1) identify the migratory bird species likely to occur in the area of the proposed action and determine if any species of concern could be affected by the activity, and (2) assess and document, using NEPA when applicable, the effect of the proposed action on species of concern. By following these procedures, DoD will minimize the possibility for a proposed action to unintentionally take migratory birds at a level that would violate any of the migratory bird treaties and potentially impact mission activities. In addition, implementing conservation and monitoring programs for migratory birds supports the ecosystem integrity necessary to sustain DoD's natural resources for the military mission.Non-compliance with the procedural requirements of the MBTA could result in a private party lawsuit under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). A lawsuit filed under APA involving a Navy bombing range is the basis for a court ruling that unintentional take of migratory birds applies to federal actions. Ensuring the necessary data is available to adequately assess impacts of a proposed action will help avoid lawsuits or help ensure such lawsuits have no grounds. The data gathered in a bird monitoring program will provide the best scientific data available to assess the expected impacts of a proposed action on migratory bird species through the NEPA process. This report presents recommendations developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the Department of Defense (DoD) on establishing a "Coordinated Bird Monitoring (CBM) Plan." The CBM Plan is intended to ensure that DoD meets its conservation and regulatory responsibilities for monitoring birds (Chapter 1). The report relies heavily on recommendations in the report, "Opportunities for improving avian monitoring" (, by the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative (U.S. NABCI Monitoring Subcommittee, 2007) and on a review of 358 current DoD bird monitoring programs carried out as part of this project (Chapter 2). This report contains 12 recommendations which, if followed, would result in a comprehensive, efficient, and useful approach to bird monitoring. The recommendations are based on the entire report but are presented together at the end of Chapter 1. DoD has agreed to consider implementing these recommendations; however, final decisions will be based upon such factors as the availability of resources and military mission considerations. These recommendations from USGS can be summarized into 6 major themes: A major report on monitoring was released in 2007 by the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative ( DoD can be consistent with this report by establishing policy that monitoring will be explicitly acknowledged as an integral element of bird management and conservation (Recommendation 1). The design of monitoring and assessment programs for birds should include the following steps: Preparation of a document describing the program's goals, objectives, and methods similar to a format we provide (Recommendation 2, Chapter 4). Selection of field methods using an "expert system" developed in this project (Recommendation 3, Chapter 5) or another well-documented system. Preparation and storage of metadata describing the monitoring program in the Natural Resources Monitoring Partnership (NRMP), and other appropriate databases Recommendation 4, Chapter 6). Entry of the survey data using eBird ( or the Coordinated Bird Monitoring Database (CBMD) and long-term storage of the data in the CBMD and the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN; Recommendation 5, Chapter 6; Submission of major results from the monitoring program for publication in a peer reviewed journal (Recommendation 6). The DoD Legacy Resource Management Program (Legacy;, Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP;, and Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP; should be encouraged to continue their significant contributions to the foundations of bird monitoring (Recommendation 7, Chapters 1 and 3). Appropriate monitoring should be conducted to identify species of concern on installations. A year-round, one-time survey of birds on installations with habitat for migratory birds would provide the most information to assist compliance with the MOU, the Final Rule, and the NEPA analyses of proposed actions. However, less intensive survey efforts can still be conducted to yield useful information. We describe how various levels of survey effort might be organized and conducted. In addition, continuing surveys, as feasible, would further assist in documenting effects of military readiness and non-readiness activities on species of concern (SOC) (Recommendation 8, Chapter 7). Participation in well-designed, large-scale surveys [(e.g., North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS;, Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS;] on land that DoD manages or on lands where the results will be of high interest to DoD, will provide DoD and other NABCI members with information important to bird conservation (Recommendation 9, Chapter 8). Review and implementation of the CBM Plan should involve both higher level management and installation-level natural resources managers (Recommendation 11), be implemented through cooperative partnerships (Recommendation 12), and be followed on U.S territory lands and Army Corps of Engineers projects (Recommendation 10).Additional recommendations that pertain to implementing the DoD CBM Plan are discussed in Chapter 9.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Coordinated bird monitoring: Technical recommendations for military lands
Series title:
Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
v, 51 p.; Appendix: 16 pgs. 52-68