FCAS Poudre River IBA

Save the Poudre -- for the Birds!

For Immediate Release: December 11, 2007

Phil Cafaro, 970-482-8279; cafaro@lamar.colostate.edu
Nick Komar, 970-416-7527; quetzal65@comcast.net 

Fort Collins — The Fort Collins Audubon Society announced today that it has nominated a twenty-mile corridor along the Poudre River, from Bellvue through Fort Collins, to be designated as the Cache la Poudre Urban River Corridor Important Bird Area."The River Corridor sustains some of the most important bird habitat in the region," remarked Joel Hurmence, President of FCAS, the local chapter of the national Audubon Society. "This IBA nomination seeks to preserve this important resource for our children and grandchildren."

The Important Bird Area program is an effort to identify and protect bird habitat across the nation. IBA's are jointly designated by technical committees of ornithologists and willing land owners, public and private. Currently, Colorado is home to 54 Important Bird Areas, including Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area and the Pawnee National Grassland.

To be recognized as an I.B.A., areas must meet certain scientific criteria, including representing rare habitat within a state or region. Riparian areas cover less than 2% of the shortgrass steppe ecotype covering the eastern half of Colorado. Much of this habitat has been degraded by urban and agricultural development. Yet these rivers and narrow strips of mature riparian forest provide essential habitat for many bird species only rarely found elsewhere, or found elsewhere only in much smaller numbers. Riparian corridors also serve as important migration pathways for both montane and grassland birds.

Nick Komar, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and a co-author of the nomination, organized breeding bird censuses along the river in 2001, 2002 and 2006. According to Komar, these censuses show that the river corridor supports many species of birds found rarely if at all outside the corridor, including common merganser, black-crowned night heron, cedar waxwing, and orchard oriole. In addition, many species are found in much greater numbers within the corridor than outside it, including yellow warbler, bank swallow, wood duck, kingfisher, osprey, great-blue heron and eastern kingbird. "Our surveys indicate that the river corridor is a unique, restricted and important habitat type for birds in Larimer County," Komar stated.

Bill Miller, conservation chair for the Fort Collins Audubon Society, echoed those comments. "The river corridor is a key resource for birds and other wildlife, and for everyone who enjoys seeing them," said Miller. He added: "If we want our kids to connect to nature, we need to protect places like the river corridor where they can do it."

Lands along the river are an important educational resource, according to Philip Cafaro, a professor at Colorado State University who co-wrote the IBA nomination. "In putting together the nomination," said Cafaro, "I talked to many educators who teach their students about nature down by the river, from university to elementary school classes." Ph.D. dissertations and dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers have been written about research conducted along the banks of the Poudre. At the same time, it is the perfect place for a parent to point out a kingfisher or osprey to their child, for the first time.

As Colorado's human population continues to grow, more and more wildlife habitat is being destroyed. To preserve a remnant of the state's rich biological diversity, the Audubon Society works to identify lands most in need of protection through the Important Bird Areas program. The IBA program is a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to protecting habitat that is vital to bird migration, breeding, and wintering. While the program places a special emphasis on birds, IBA designation also benefits many other species who share their habitat—as well as everyone who enjoys seeing them. (To learn more about Colorado's IBA program and see a complete listing of Colorado IBA's, go to http://co.audubon.org/birdcon_iba.html.)