Editor's Note: The ABA is pleased to welcome American Bird Conservancy President Dr. George Fenwick to the blog to introduce the 5th International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop, held this week in Snowbird, Utah.
In addition to the critical conversations and trans-hemispheric planning sessions occurring at the meeting this year, the ABA is proud to announce our presence there as well. We'll be taking our acclaimed conservation program Birders' Exchange on the road, distributing optics and equipment to deserving researchers from all over the hemisphere right on site.
Without further ado, here's Dr. Fenwick.
I don’t write a lot about meetings, especially in advance. This post is the exception that proves that rule. There is a meeting that will take place outside Salt Lake City, Utah, August 25 – 28 and if this meeting does what it’s designed to do, it will be a banner day for birds but more specifically, it will be a banner day for declining neotropical migratory birds found in the Western Hemisphere.
The meeting in question is the fifth international meeting of Partners in Flight (PIF) and is being hosted by American Bird Conservancy. PIF (www.partnersinflight.org) was formed as a collaboration of hundreds of groups and agencies in 1990, in response to growing concerns about the decline of many of our landbirds, especially neotropical migrants. Its partner list is a Who’s Who in bird conservation in the Americas; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports the only paid position in the partnership – the Partners in Flight National Coordinator.
PIF has been described as one of the most ambitious conservation efforts ever launched, but it doesn’t do a lot of conferences – roughly two per decade. That’s a useful thing when the economy is tight and travel is expensive. For that reason, bird conservationists took note when this fifth international PIF conference and workshop was scheduled for this summer. At this point, hundreds of ornithologists and other scientists are expected to attend. Participants include not only home-grown NGOs concerned with these migratory bird problems, but a range of bird experts from 14 countries and almost 100 organizations from Canada and Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
PIF and ABC are doing everything they can to help ensure that this year’s meeting shapes the future of bird conservation, which is a tall order indeed. Our target - simple to voice but exceedingly complex to implement - is a better life for the declining migrants found in the Americas. We hope to reach that goal by working together on a set of “conservation business plans” designed to identify and prioritize actions needed to improve the habitats used by the migratory birds. In recent years, “business plans” have become attractive to donors because they are necessarily very specific in identifying what will be achieved for a given commitment of resources.
To that end, collaborative teams are being formed for eight different ecological regions used as wintering grounds, geographically linking north and south to cover wintering, breeding, and transit areas. These teams and conference attendees will develop specific sets of programs and projects to address the most pressing threats for these regions and their migratory birds. The result: a “conservation blueprint” for our most imperiled migratory species.
We have set up the meeting to be inclusive, inviting all who are concerned about birds and their conservation to attend, participate, and contribute. It is an opportunity that does not come along often on a stage this large. It seems like the pieces are in place for this collaboration to produce a lasting legacy for conservation. Such things have happened before -- prominent scientists and conservationists coming together and significantly changing the course of conservation. In 1917, Victor Shelford gathered scientists and formed the Ecological Society of America, leading to the publication of The Naturalist’s Guide to the Americas (1926) and launching the modern conservation movement in the United States.
Another historical moment in bird conservation occurred in 1985, when research showed that waterfowl populations had plummeted to record lows. Concerned groups and individuals came together to create the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, recognized by both the United States and Canada in 1986 and later joined by Mexico. That plan has generated more than $5.3 billion to purchase and enhance waterfowl habitat on more than 20 million acres in these three countries—a remarkable legacy of coordinated public-private action.
In addition to the working sessions, the meeting also offers plenary sessions that run the gamut from provocative: Can Conservation Save Birds? – to international: The Challenges and Success of Migratory Bird Conservation in the Wintering Grounds, from the Latin American Perspective – to fresh approaches: The Partners in Flight Full Life-Cycle Approach: New Directions for Bird Conservation. See the full line-up of plenary sessions here.
Special sessions – nine in total -- have something for everyone, including: A Western Hemisphere Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for All Birds; Understanding and Overcoming the Social Challenges of Bird Conservation; and Migration Stopover and Bottlenecks for Long-distance Migrants within the Western Hemisphere. Check out the full schedule.
And of course they have a full set of birding field trips after the heavy lifting of the meeting has taken place:
For more than 20 years, under the banner of Partners in Flight, thousands of our best scientists, conservationists, and educators have labored to understand, address, and enlighten us about the disappearance of migratory birds. These are great people. Let’s hope they can make a difference again. If you care about bird conservation and you haven’t signed up for this meeting, you should check it out at www.pifv.org.