The 20-year-old WHSRN--with 63 global partners in eight countries that comprise over 20 million acres--is the only group of its kind in the Western Hemisphere working to protect the hemisphere's 1-2 million migratory shorebirds. Each year, many shorebird species such as the Plover and Western Sandpiper make the annual 20,000-mile, roundtrip trek from Alaska to Argentina.
The new sites are: Rio Gallegos, Argentina--a large estuary with mud flats and marshes on the Rio Gallegos, owned by the municipality of Rio Gallegos on one shore and the Province of Santa Cruz on the other; Llano de la Soledad, Mexico--a grassland area owned jointly by a private rancher and by a uniquely Mexican structure called an Ejido--a communally-owned area with shared usage; and the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in the area of Houston, Texas that is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We are delighted to welcome these three important but very different sites to the WHSRN network, and we congratulate the landowners for their commitment to voluntary cooperative conservation," said Charles Duncan, WHSRN executive office director.
Key highlights of the new WHSRN site initiatives include:
Rio Gallegos, Argentina
The municipality of Rio Gallegos with a population of 80,000 is located in Patagonia, a sparsely-populated area the size of Texas and California combined. The estuary at the mouth of the river attracts a number of North American species including the Red Knot and a locally-occurring bird called the Magellanic Plover which has a world population smaller than 2,000 birds.
WHSRN is working to raise monies to study the current population of the Magellanic Plovers. WHSRN has also secured funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build a nature education center on the site under the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act enacted by Congress in 2000. This project is being implemented jointly by the City of Rio Gallegos and the National University of Austral Patagonia.
Llano de la Soledad, Mexico
Llano de la Soledad is located in a ranching community of 5,000 people. In addition to its importance for shorebirds, the grassland area has the largest colony of Mexican prairie dogs in the world that is the keystone of the ecosystem found there. For example, the burrows created by the prairie dogs attract Burrowing Owls. Also, because of the grass height maintained by the herbivores, the area attracts two extremely important birds to the area: the Mountain Plover--a greatly at-risk shorebird species, for which the area is its largest-known wintering site; and the Long-Billed Curlew--a large shorebird with a decurved bill, which is also attracted to the area as its largest-known wintering site.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is located about 60 miles east of Houston, TX. Primarily managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for waterfowl, the increased focus on shorebirds is new for the area. Among the most important species in the area are the Whimbrel, a large shorebird that breeds in the High Arctic of Alaska before migrating to Central and South America. On its return visit, the species stops at Anahuac where the highest count on a single day has been 2,200 birds - more than 10 percent of its total population.
The new WHSRN coalition sites will help protect migratory shorebirds that face environmental and other threats to their survival. During the migration season, these birds depend on finding food and shelter at each country where they stop along the way. Yet, shorebirds, which are among the most migratory of all species, are in trouble. More than one-fourth of all of North America's shorebird species and subspecies are in serious decline. Some, such as the Red Knots, will become extinct within our lifetimes if current population trends are not halted.
To qualify as a WHSRN site, the petitioning sites go through a nomination process to determine the area's demonstrated importance to shorebirds and to secure the agreement of the owners. The sites can serve as a breeding, stopover/stage, or wintering area. The three categories for qualifying sites are: Hemispheric Importance for annual counts of 500,000 shorebirds or 30 percent of the species flyway population; International Importance for 100,000 shorebirds or 10 percent of the flyway population; and Regional Importance for 20,000 shorebirds or 5 percent of the flyway population.
In addition to international recognition as a major critical habitat for migratory shorebirds, benefits for landowners include assistance with management and conservation of the site; project development assistance for research, monitoring, improvements, training, and educational activities; and site preference among grant-making agencies.
About the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) is a voluntary, non-regulatory coalition whose mission is the conservation of shorebird species and their habitats across the Americas. Created in 1985 as a visionary approach to addressing shorebird conservation needs, WHSRN today consists of 63 sites in eight nations that accounts for over 21 million acres. Working in conjunction with hundreds of landowners, land trusts, corporations and national governments, WHSRN is the only hemisphere-wide conservation program focused on protecting shorebirds. WHSRN is a key program of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Manomet, Massachusetts, USA. For more information, please visit www.whsrn.org
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences is one of the nation's only independent non-profits dedicated exclusively to carrying out environmental research. Originally founded 35 years ago as the Manomet Bird Observatory, its scientists have been bringing together environmental stakeholders--communities, individuals, universities, government agencies, and businesses--to develop cooperative, science-based policies and management strategies. Dedicated to conserving the natural world for the benefit of wildlife and human populations, Manomet scientists work to conserve forest, wetland, marine, and agricultural habitats, as well as birds and wildlife populations throughout the Western Hemisphere. For more information, please visit www.manomet.org
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