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State of the Birds Report

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State Agencies

Mission: State fish and wildlife agencies have broad statutory and often constitutional authority over wildlife management with a mission to sustain, protect, and conserve

  State Lands at a Glance

• State agencies manage 189 million acres of land in the U.S., including wildlife management areas, state game lands, heritage preserves, natural areas, state forests, state parks, state trust lands, and recreation areas.

• State lands are diverse and include more boreal forest (34%), marsh (24%), and grassland (4%) than any single federal agency.

• State land holdings range from a few hundred acres to millions of acres. The 2.6 million-acre Adirondack Forest Preserve is the largest state-owned area in the United States.
  Image: Red Knot by Gerrit Vyn   

Stewardship of Birds

• In Alaska, state lands support 18% of the
average U.S. distribution of arctic and alpine species. White-tailed Ptarmigan, Surfbird, Stilt Sandpiper, and Snow Bunting have greater than 30% of their distribution on state lands. In Alaska, state boreal forests support more than 50% of the U.S. distribution of Black-backed Woodpecker, Blackpoll Warbler, and Gray-cheeked Thrush.

• State lands in the Northeast support a
disproportionate percentage of boreal bird distributions. More than 25% of the U.S. population of the Bicknell’s Thrush, a species of conservation concern, is in Adirondack Forest Preserve and Catskill State Park in New York.

• State wildlife agencies have the primary authority for regulating and providing
management recommendations for all resident game bird species. Many of the 19 native game bird species have a high percentage of their distribution on state lands, including Spruce Grouse (22%) and Montezuma Quail (14%).

• Every spring, up to a million migratory shorebirds visit Delaware Bay. During the last 10 years, Delaware and New Jersey agencies have helped conserve the Red Knot, a species of conservation concern. They have implemented research and monitoring projects. They have also coordinated protection of state lands, restriction of access, and harvest regulations for horseshoe crabs, a key food for Red Knots.

Percentage distribution of breeding bird species dependent on each habitat on state lands. 

State Agencies and Bird Conservation

All states hold acreage in public trust for purposes such as transportation, education, corrections, and cultural and natural resources. The legislative mandate of the agency holding the land dictates the amount of focus on bird conservation. In general, birds are the legislative responsibility of the natural resource agencies with a mission to sustain, protect, and conserve wildlife.

Many state wildlife agencies rely solely on hunting license revenue to fund activities and match federal grants. During 1997–2007 there was a loss of 18,579 hunters and 36,272 anglers (USFWS Online Federal License Certification). From 2008 to 2009 the USFWS reported an increase in paid license sales. The changes in license sales can impact the ability of state wildlife agencies to implement needed conservation on the ground.

Nongame programs have relied on state sales tax, public donations, car license tags, and other creative funding mechanisms. Since 2000, the State Wildlife Grants Program has aided bird conservation by requiring State Wildlife Action Plans to outline steps to conserve wildlife and habitat before they become endangered. State wildlife agencies participate in the stewardship of migratory birds, working with Canadian and Mexican partners to conserve waterfowl populations across North America through efforts such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the Flyway Councils. Many states have participated in bird conservation actions with Latin American and Caribbean partners, including through the Southern Wings Program.

Several state wildlife agencies have developed state bird conservation initiatives
(AZ, FL, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, OH, VA, and WI). For example, the 59-member Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative conserves birds across geopolitical boundaries, taxonomic groups, and landscapes. Of the $2.8 million expended since 2004, $1.3 million has gone to grassland and prairie restoration to conserve species such as Greater Prairie-Chicken, Henslow’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Upland Sandpiper.

Blue Mountain Lake is part of the 2.6 million-acre Adirondack Forest Preserve--the largest area of state land in the United States. Photo by Kenneth V. Rosenberg

Conservation in Action: Managing Forests for Golden-winged Warblers

Golden-winged Warblers have declined throughout their range because of habitat loss and hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers. State lands are extremely important for the conservation of golden-wings, with 16% of the species’ distribution. State lands offer opportunities for intensive management for young (early successional) forests critical for the survival of the Goldenwinged Warbler and other priority species such as the American Woodcock.

The Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas (2004–09) found that 32% of goldenwing breeding records are on state property. Focus areas for this species include 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) lands. The PGC is including golden-wing management in the game land planning process and prioritizing barren-habitat restoration and management. The PGC, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture/ABC, and Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry are developing Forestland Best Management Practices for Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Many partners have contributed to management on state parks and game lands, including PGC, PA Bureau of State Parks, Ruffed Grouse Society, IUP, Wildlife Management Institute, and Woodcock Unlimited. For example, IUP has begun work at the 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park, adjacent State Game Lands 92, and nearby Sproul State Forest. The project aims to remove exotics, plant native species, and use silviculture to maintain early-successional habitat. Within a year, five of the seven manipulated areas begun in 2009 already had at least one territorial Golden-winged Warbler, a promising sign that it is possible to create breeding habitat for this vulnerable species. Similar management efforts are ongoing in numerous other states.


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