Why all-bird conservation: a historical perspective

In the mid 1980’s waterfowl populations across the United States were in serious decline and wetlands were disappearing quickly and in need of immediate conservation action. In 1986, the U.S. and Canadian governments developed a document, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), that laid out how to protect, restore and enhance waterfowl populations across North America. To implement the plan Joint Ventures, collaborative regional and local partnerships, were formed across the country and across borders. With updated versions in 1996, 1998, and 2004 this plan has been extremely successful with over 13 million hectares of habitat either restored or enhanced since 2003. Because of NAWMP’s success, other national and international bird conservation plans were written following in NAWMP’s guidelines for shorebirds, landbirds and waterbirds.

In the late 1990s, bird conservation leaders in North America realized that many other bird species, besides waterfowl, still faced enormous threats despite the best efforts to conserve their populations. Only by developing a broader, more coordinated approach across the various bird conservation groups could such threats be effectively addressed. In 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) working with non-governmental organizations, federal, state, and provincial agencies, began to develop the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). A main objective of NABCI was to link bird conservation efforts in the United States with similar efforts in Canada and Mexico through existing initiatives, including the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), Partners In Flight (PIF), U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan, and the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan.

The goal of this international initiative is: “To deliver the full spectrum of bird conservation through regionally-based, biologically-driven, landscape-oriented partnerships.” NABCI envisions an ecologically-based framework for planning and implementing bird conservation, including collaboration with the NAWMP Joint Ventures. These Joint Ventures have achieved broad-based support across the continent and have successfully implemented waterfowl habitat management and conservation over the last 15 years. An important aspect of the NABCI framework is the establishment of “Bird Conservation Regions” that provide a flexible framework for integrating bird conservation efforts at different ecological scales depending on the local and regional context.


A short history of the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative

Since the development of NABCI, a number of states have started to form all-bird conservation initiatives that address bird conservation issues at state and local levels. Wisconsin was the first state, but others such as Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Minnesota have organized state-level efforts. With this shift towards all-bird conservation, the Ohio Working Group of PIF agreed to investigate the possibility of an Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative (OBCI), and several members of Ohio PIF formed an organizing committee to spearhead the effort. This committee convened an organizational meeting in late October 2003 in Columbus. That initial meeting produced a consensus among diverse conservation organizations to develop a statewide initiative for Ohio. At a second organizational meeting in Columbus in mid-January 2004, a Coordinating Council was formed. Since that time, the Council has developed a Vision, Mission, and Goals statements for OBCI, written operating procedures, and selected a Chair (Paul Rodewald, The Ohio State University) and Vice-Chair (Julie Shieldcastle, Black Swamp Bird Observatory). OBCI has convened numerous organizational meetings, and held its official signing ceremony at Green Lawn Cemetery on 5 May 2004 in Columbus. In addition, OBCI held its first annual all-bird conservation workshop at Mohican State Park on 17-18 November 2004. This workshop was attended by 65 individuals from a variety of organizations and was largely supported through funds from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Paul Rodewald speaking at the OBCI Signing Ceremony on May 5, 2004.

OBCI is represented by a diverse coalition of partners interested in bird conservation that includes 90 organizations. Twenty-eight of these groups participate in the OBCI Coordinating Council, OBCI’s governing body. Other partners participate through two committees, the Outreach and Education Committee and the Conservation Planning and Research Committee. In 2005, OBCI partners worked to secure funds to hire a full-time Coordinator and Suzanne Cardinal was hired for this position in November 2005. Suzanne’s position ended in 2007 when funding for her position was no longer available. Funding was recently secured for another full-time coordinator, and Amanda Conover was hired in September 2011. Following Amanda’s departure in November 2015, Matthew Shumar was hired as OBCI’s new Program Coordinator.

In 2010, OBCI partners completed an All-Bird Conservation Plan for the state. The Ohio all-bird plan was based, in part, on continental bird conservation plans already written. It summarizes current research and monitoring efforts for birds in Ohio and highlights information gaps. The document is an action plan for OBCI partners that outlines much of what partners will focus their efforts on in the coming years. A revision of the All-Bird Conservation Plan is planned for 2020.