Within the next three years, you may find that your favorite birding spot in New Jersey has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA). In January of this year, the Garden State Audubon Council voted to conduct the program in New Jersey and the steering committee met for the first time on June 16. Criteria for designating sites were set and the first steps were taken to launch the NJ IBA program. Audubon chapters have been asked to submit site nominations and funding is being sought to hire a part-time staff person.
The IBA program is an international effort to identify, conserve, and monitor sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations. Birdlife International began the IBA program in Europe in 1985. Since that time, Birdlife partners in over 100 counties have joined together to build the global IBA network. National Audubon Society, the U.S. Birdlife partner, is working to conserve hundreds of important bird areas all across the US. IBA's often support a significant proportion of the total populations of one or more species. New York and Pennsylvania already have completed their IBA inventories and published books. New York has passed the country's first state bird area conservation legislation based on IBA criteria.
In New Jersey, many of the important habitat sites are already preserved as publicly owned open space. Many others are protected by conservation easements. However, too often these sites lack management plans that protect habitat values (see Baldpate article above.) It is hoped that IBA designation will elevate the importance of these values for these properties and raise public awareness and stewardship goals.
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