The Land and Water Conservation Fund is helping America’s birds

LWCF coalition | Used by permission

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It’s not your imagination, there are fewer birds than there used to be. In fact, there are more than 3 billion fewer birds in the skies than in 1970.

We can help prevent species loss by preserving habitat for birds across the country by creating and expanding national wildlife refuges and other protected habitat areas. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has invested in landscapes across the country that protect bird habitat, flyways and provide excellent bird watching opportunities.

Check out some of our favorite LWCF-funded projects that protect important areas for our feathered friends.

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

In response to the near-decimation of many bird species, President Thedore Roosevelt established our first federal bird reservation in 1903. With this act, the National Wildlife Refuge System was created. Over $22.5 million of investments from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect the refuge’s extensive mangrove ecosystem that supports various bird rookeries and other wildlife along Indian River Lagoon. More than 140 species of birds use the Refuge as a nesting, roosting, feeding, or loafing area. 

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

San Pedro River Ecosystem, Arizona

The San Pedro River flows 140 miles north to its confluence with the Gila River. It is the last major, undammed desert river in the southwest and is of major ecological importance as it hosts two thirds of the avian diversity in the U.S., including 100 species of breeding birds and almost 300 species of migrating birds. An investment from the Land and Water Conservation Fund through the Forest Legacy Program protected 600 acres along the San Pedro River through a permanent conservation easement, adding critical protected land to the larger river conservation effort.

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Carlsbad-Buena Vista Lagoon, California

The only freshwater lagoon in California, Buena Vista Lagoon is home to a wide variety of waterfowl. Thanks to an investment of $525 thousand from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, 130 acres were acquired and permanently protected. Now the Lagoon stands at 350 acres, and the ecological preserve maintains a healthy habitat for its many unique species. Additionally, the preserve hosts a nature center in partnership with the Audubon Society, where visitors can learn more about the resident and migratory birds.

Photo by LWCF Coalition | Used by permission

Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Connecticut

Connecticut’s Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect migratory bird habitat along Long Island Sound. In addition to habitat protection, the refuge now provides opportunities for bird watching, scientific research, and environmental education. Investments of over $21.6 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund have proven critical to the refuge’s conservation efforts. 

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Emiquon, Chautauqua, and Meredosia National Wildlife Refuges, Illinois

Emiquon, Chautauqua, and Meredosia National Wildlife Refuges comprise over 9.6K acres in Illinois and have benefited from $3.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In the 1920s, the area was drained but successful restoration has returned the floodplain wetland ecosystem, allowing it to play a vital role in supporting the avian diversity in the Illinois River Basin. The refuges are key stops for waterfowl and other migratory birds that rest and feed in these wet Illinois River bottoms during their annual migration.

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Maine

Maine’s Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge provides critical nesting and feeding habitat for a variety of migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway, including the federally listed threatened piping plover. Over the past two decades, Rachel Carson NWR has received investments totaling more than $24 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support acquisitions in and around the refuge.

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota 

Providing protected habitat on the Mississippi Flyway, the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge spans over 240 thousand acres and 261 river miles. The Refuge was established to provide habitat to year long species and also hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. Habitat on the refuge is recognized as continentally significant and a globally Important Bird Area. Over $8.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has ensured protection of critical bird habitat and supported flood management efforts in this important wetland.

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, Oregon

The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a group of wildlife areas located in southern Oregon and northern California. Historically, the Klamath Basin consisted of 185 thousand acres of lakes and marshes – an expanse of wetlands that attracted over 6 million waterfowl. After years of environmental destruction, six national wildlife refuges were established, beginning with Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Reufge as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge and an important part of the Pacific flyway. Investments from the Land and Water Conservation Fund totaling over $18.7 million have helped protect diverse habitats and abundant populations of resident and migratory wildlife. Each year, the refuges serve as a migratory stopover for about 75% of the Pacific Flyway waterfowl, with peak fall concentrations of over 1 million birds.

Photo by LWCF coalition | Used by permission

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Authors

Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.