Over 56 million acres are protected by land trusts and private conservation organizations in the United States, creating a network of private, protected lands twice as large as the National Park Service system in the lower 48. These lands are important to hundreds of common bird species and critical to the more than 100 species of conservation significance that have at least 50% of their breeding distribution on private lands. The Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation provides small grant funds to facilitate high priority, bird-focused conservation projects. Partners are encouraged to use the awarded funds to leverage additional dollars from community groups and other funding agencies, as well as create capacity to accomplish conservation goals. To meet this objective, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology launched the Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative Grant Program in 2017. Read on to learn more about land trusts working to improve Golden-winged Warbler habitat across their breeding range.
Triangle Land Conservancy (North Carolina)
Triangle Land Conservancy’s (TLC) Brumley North Nature Preserve is a local birding hotspot in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the rapidly developing Triangle Region. As a part of the larger 673-acre Brumley Nature Preserve, this 160-acre property is one of the largest tracts of natural areas in the county. Presently, the preserve contains a variety of beneficial habitat including ponds, open fields, wetlands, and mature forest, however its land use history has resulted in expanses of invasive species and stands of machine-planted loblolly pine. TLC’s primary goal is to reverse the course of this land legacy by enhancing habitat quality to benefit breeding, migrating, and residential bird species, as well as other wildlife found on site. In particular, TLC has targeted habitat improvement efforts for the Golden-winged Warbler, a species of concern in North Carolina. TLC will incorporate a series of specific habitant management prescriptions into the preserve’s long-term management plan, including invasive plant species removal, native plant establishment, prescribed burns, and forest canopy gap openings in even-age loblolly pine stands.
TLC is partnering with New Hope Audubon Society (NHAS) to conduct seasonal bird surveys that will help TLC understand the impact of management actions on local bird populations. These partners will engage the public by leading bird hikes and teaching eBird, as well as educational events highlighting the benefit of native plant species for birds, harmful invasive plant species, and TLC’s restoration activities. The project site will serve as an outdoor classroom for local schools and universities where students can learn about wildlife surveys, habitat management, and preserve management. TLC is grateful to the Cornell Lab for supporting habitat work at Brumley North and for enabling them to connect more people with birds in partnership with NHAS. More Info
Vermont Land Trust (Vermont)
Vermont Land Trust (VLT) is partnering with Audubon Vermont (AVT) and Nordic Farms to demonstrate effective integration of bird conservation and diversified agriculture through the Integrating Avian Conservation and Diversified Agriculture in the Champlain Valley of Vermont Project. VLT is Vermont’s largest land trust, holding conservation easements on over 2,500 properties covering over 596,000 acres, including on the ~580-acre Nordic Farms. Historically a conventional dairy, Nordic Farms is now an innovative diversified farm growing produce and meat for local restaurants, grains for its onsite malting operation supplying regional breweries and distilleries, and shrimp in its aquaculture facility. It also includes abundant forest, wetland, and transitional shrubland identified by AVT as prime habitat for Golden-winged and Blue-winged warblers. VLT and AVT will enhance the ecological function of this farm through habitat improvement on over 50 shrubland acres, removing invasive species, fostering copses of native shrubs and trees, planting in riparian areas, and installing a deer exclosure to demonstrate the impact of deer herbivory. Habitat improvement plans will incorporate the establishment of a footpath to welcome local birders to use eBird. VLT and AVT will engage the local conservation community on a technical site tour while restoration work is occurring and the public at a later outreach event. VLT’s stewardship and restoration work will incorporate ongoing monitoring in addition to bird surveys by AVT, and this project will be integrated into the Western Vermont Collaborative already operating in the Champlain Valley. VLT ecologist Allaire Diamond notes that “This project supports VLT’s investment in restoring and enhancing wild places on farms, helping farmers play an active role in wildlife habitat conservation.” More Info
Natural Lands (Pennsylvania)
Natural Lands (NL) is partnering with Audubon Pennsylvania to determine appropriate management practices and begin implementation to improve habitat for declining Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Ruffed Grouse at their Bear Creek Preserve through the Habitat Enhancement for Ruffed Grouse, Golden-winged Warbler, and Wood Thrush Project. Bear Creek Preserve includes 3,565 acres of forests and stream valleys in Luzurne County, Pennsylvania. The land provides vital habitat for native wildlife, including black bear, coyote, Bald Eagle, and many species of migratory songbirds. NL’s habitat improvement work will involve a prescribed burn and other silvicultural practices such as such as overstory removal, shelterwood harvests, and group tree selection to create early successional habitat and a mixed-age forest. A monitoring program utilizing eBird will be established to track the success of the management actions by assessing bird diversity and monitoring for the presence and abundance of the target species. NL will host a workshop and share what is learned from this work with adjacent landowners and other partners in the region via a post-management webinar and continued use of the preserve as a demonstration site. “Natural Lands constantly strives to care for our preserves in a way that best supports native vegetation and wildlife, particularly at-risk species.” said Oliver Bass, President of NL. “Thanks to the funding and support from the Cornell Lab, we’ll be able to increase our management efforts and improve our stewardship practices to provide habitat for important bird species that are declining in our region.” More Info