Audubon's vision for Working Lands in North Carolina
As "the bird people" for our state, Audubon North Carolina has crafted an approach to forest management that protects and restores habitats for birds while simultaneously helping landowners enhance their property in cost-effective ways. Audubon is developing partnerships, training opportunities, management plans, and demonstration sites. We are collaborating with federal and state organizations that manage lands and provide funding to private landowners to support environmentally sound practices, especially those that benefit birds.
Working with private landowners is a critical piece of the Working Lands initiative as 61% of North Carolina's 18.4 million acres of forest lands is privately owned. Ninety percent of that acreage is contained in parcels of less than 50 acres and private lands comprise about twenty percent of the total acreage of North Carolina's Important Bird Areas. See www.ncaudubonblog.org for a virtual tour of our IBAs.
Curtis Smalling, Director of Land Bird Conservation for Audubon North Carolina, is reaching out to private landowners to help them develop cost-effective strategies for making their properties more bird-friendly. Curtis is meeting with landowners, assessing their property and its birdlife, and writing management plans that provide strategies for maintaining or restoring bird-friendly habitats as well as suggesting sources of funding and tax incentives for management activities. Audubon plans to expand this program across North Carolina, focusing most intensively on blocks of forest where we will have the greatest impact on songbird populations now and in the future. Audubon North Carolina intends to write or influence management plans for 50,000 acres in the state by 2016.
Accomplishments to date
Since launching the Working Lands conservation strategy in 2011, Audubon North Carolina has made the following progress toward our goal of impacting 20,000 acres by June 2013.
• We are working with a number of regional and local land trusts to provide management advice and technical assistance on properties protected by conservation easements. We have worked with the National Committee for the New River, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation Trust for North Carolina to impact about 6,000 acres.
• In partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and others we are partnering with 30 landowners that manage a total of 500 acres for the benefit of Golden-winged Warblers. The landowners are already enrolled in NRCS tax incentive programs or plan to enroll this year.
• We are working with the National Forests in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee to train staff on Golden-winged Warbler management for about 2,000 acres of habitat.
• We are partnering with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on management of priority gameland parcels at Pond Mountain, Elk Knob, and Roaring Creek, totaling about 4,000 acres.
• We are assisting staff at Elk Knob and New River State Parks in conducting inventories, planning for active management, and possible cooperative management impacting about 800 acres.
• We are working with several local and community parks on management and restoration projects including Green Valley Park, Valle Crucis Community Park, Tate Evans Park in Banner Elk, and the Boone Greenway Wetlands. These projects represent about 200 acres and offer opportunities to connect many people to bird conservation through interpretive materials and field trips.
• In partnership with Highlands Audubon Society and other groups, we launched Treasure Highlands, a project to help residents of the Highlands Plateau create bird-friendly backyards, learn about volunteer opportunities with local conservation organizations, and explore their Important Bird Area (see www.treasurehighlands.org).
• We secured funding from TogetherGreen and the Clabough Foundation for production of bird-friendly forestry guides for North Carolina that will be available in early 2013.
• We hosted an all country meeting of Important Bird Area coordinators in Nicaragua, the first of its kind in Central America. We also helped launch eBird in Nicaragua.
• We provided tiny transmitters for UNC-Wilmington graduate students to place on Golden-winged Warblers to find out what habitats the birds use on their wintering grounds in Nicaragua. We also supported the placement of 70 geolocators on Wood Thrushes in Nicaragua to determine where these birds spend their summers. Geolocators are small photo cells that record a daily estimate of the birds' location. Biologists will try to recapture the birds the following year to download the data.