Wings Over Western Waters
Marie McCarty, Executive Director, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust
Note: This story was originally published in North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s (NABCI) Winter 2016 issue of The All-Bird Bulletin, titled Developing Partnerships with Land Trusts for Bird Conservation and has been adapted for this website.
In 2011, the Executive Directors of the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas in Salida, Colorado, and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust in Homer, Alaska, Andrew Mackie and Marie McCarty, met to discuss how they could work together across the West to further local and national bird conservation goals. From this initial conversation, the Wings Over Western Waters initiative was born and led to a multi-partner meeting in Salt Lake City in 2013, after the National Land Trust Alliance annual conference. This meeting included 16 western land trusts, representatives of the Pacific Coast (now Pacific Birds Habitat) and Intermountain West Joint Ventures, Audubon, Partners in Flight, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (now Bird Conservancy of the Rockies), and the Land Trust Alliance.
Spotlight Resource: Wings Over Western Waters Initiative
Partners designed the Wings initiative to bring science to on-the-ground conservation efforts by fostering partnerships that focus on landscape-scale conservation for priority bird species. This initiative will help local and regional land trusts across the West use science and spatial analyses to better target their conservation efforts, and has received funding from the Intermountain West and the Pacific Coast Joint Ventures (Pacific Birds), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program, the Mountaineers Foundation, Charlotte Martin Foundation, Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas, and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. Below are just two examples of the kinds of projects that Wings is working on.
In Alaska, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust (KHLT) is working with Audubon Alaska to create a map that will be used to identify the statewide needs and successes of Alaskan land trusts for conserving priority bird habitats. Through this work Audubon will create broad-scale maps that show priority parcels for bird conservation on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula using the following spatial layers:
- Land trust service areas
- Existing conservation lands: federally protected, easements, fee simple
- Land trust priority areas, if feasible
- Audubon’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
- Watchlist and priority species lists from national and state bird conservation plans
Audubon will also work with KHLT staff on a pilot project to develop a protocol for assessing parcels based on the value of their bird habitats. Lands trusts can use this protocol for prioritizing and managing sites. The pilot will include creating customized lists of species of concern that may be encountered on parcels and types of priority habitats to watch for. Specific activities include:
- Develop bird checklists for existing conserved KHLT parcels
- Create a guide for how to identify Watchlist species habitat
- Conduct an analysis of habitat types to identify areas most likely to have high bird diversity
- Conduct a finer scale analysis of bird survey data to identify core areas within IBA focus layers
- Integrate improved bird habitat layers into a collaborative project on the Kenai Peninsula, titled Kenai Mountains to Sea
Through these partnership efforts, the Wings Over Western Waters initiative will increase bird conservation in Alaska using a model we hope to share with land trusts in the Lower 48 states.