As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Audubon Society, Audubon New York is embarking on many exciting projects for 2005. The most significant event will be the release of the second edition of the Important Bird Areas of New York State publication. The Important Bird Area project, commonly known as the IBA program, has been the foundation of Audubon bird conservation work since the first edition was published in 1998. The IBA program was originated by Bird Life International and Audubon New York’s publication was the first of its kind in the United States.
Rewards from this groundbreaking work include the enactment of the State Bird Conservation Area Law, which was modeled after the IBA criteria in the first edition. New York’s Bird Conservation Area law was the first in the nation and since its enactment Governor Pataki has designated 28 sites on state owned lands. These designations allowed the State of New York to put forth management plans on these State Parks, DEC or other state lands so that future activities would respect the needs of the bird habitat present.
Another benefit of the IBA program was to identify critical open space lands beyond the control of the state in need of protection. Of the original 127 IBA’s, some 73 were on private lands and all of these were added over a several year process to the State’s Open Space plan. The strategy for IBA’s on private lands could involve private landowner stewardship, conservation easements or public acquisition. The main goal is that the bird populations and their habitats on these lands are properly managed and maintained. Already the public education success of the IBA program over the past six years has resulted in successful conservation actions at all levels.
Later this spring the second edition of the IBA book will be released. Its impact on conservation will be as great if not greater than the first edition. Using sophisticated GIS modeling and field confirmation techniques, the IBA program has expanded from a site nomination process to a more comprehensive inventory approach using all means of data collection and site identification. The technical committee was expanded utilizing the expertise of the most widely known bird experts in the State. All previous sites were analyzed again and new sites came forward for consideration. Based on this hard work, a new list of IBA’s is generated which will greatly further bird conservation objectives for the State of New York.
Furthermore, this IBA agenda will be the foundation of Audubon New York’s conservation work. Whether it is establishing cleaner waters and lands protection programs for Long Island Sound or prioritizing open space efforts in the Hudson Highlands, Catskills and Adirondacks, IBAs will play a critical in Audubon New York’s conservation actions. The IBA program provides the definition and focus to Audubon’s efforts which will in turn make our collective activities on a chapter, center or state-wide basis all that more effective.
It is wonderful to look back and see the beginning of the Audubon movement with its emphasis on birds and their habitats. It is equally rewarding to look forward and see the organization continuing in that conservation tradition as we enter our second century. My hats off to the science team of Audubon New York and my thanks to the chapters and volunteers which together has made Audubon New York’s IBA program a model for the rest of the country.