Friday, March 8, 2013

A nice reminder about the importance of preserving habitat, brought to you by the Gunnison Sage Grouse

The Gunnison Sage Grouse

Perhaps it goes without saying that anyone who cares about birds and other wildlife should care about the protection and preservation of the natural environment. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem helps not only birds, fish, deer and other animals, but protects people as well. In today's post I'd like to focus on the theme of habitat protection and offer a few thoughts on some important ecological issues.

Earlier this week the New York Times published an editorial by John W. Fitzpatrick of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology on the plight of the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a bird which according to Mr. Fitzpatrick's description is both fascinating to observe in the wild and seriously threatened by potential habitat loss. In his piece he makes the case well that the bird deserves to be placed on the endangered species list and afforded special protections to ensure that that the Gunnison Sage Grouse does not go the way of the Heath Hen, Passenger Pigeon and Ivory-billed Woodpecker, other North American birds which were once an integral part of the continental landscape and are now gone.

I would highly recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in birds, conservation natural history take the time to read this important plea for assistance in protecting what sounds like a truly special species and an integral part of the west.  You can read the piece by Mr. Fitzpatrick by clicking here.

His descriptions of seeing this bird in Utah made me think of my own visit to the state a dozen years ago where the high desert landscape made a powerful impression on me. This piece also got me thinking about the importance of habitat protection here in New England, so I thought I would offer a few thoughts (and links) below to different groups and projects working to help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the woods and waters of the region for many years to come.

New Hampshire Audubon Society

Just to the north of Massachusetts lies the great state of New Hampshire, where I have spent many happy hours hiking, fly fishing and camping. Every time I think of the granite State it conjures up great memories of exploring Franconia Notch, trekking up  to the top of Mount Washington and casting for trout in the still waters of Profile Lake. Part of what makes this state so different from my native Massachusetts is that it's relatively easy to get away from any semblance of civilization and find yourself standing in a place that feels decidedly wild. A number of different government agencies and environmental organizations are to thank for helping to preserve the wild character of New Hampshire, among them the New Hampshire Audubon Society, a group dedicated to environmental education and preservation. I have been checking out their website for the past couple of months, and plan to make a trip up to one of the wildlife sanctuaries in the spring or early summer this year. With 38 sanctuaries and close to 8,000 acres of habitat protected, I'm looking forward to exploring the landscape and seeing up close some of the work that the New Hampshire Audubon Society does.

Beginning With Habitat, Maine

I don't have any first-hand knowledge of this group, but I came across their website as I was wandering around the web, and thought the description of who they are and what they do was pretty interesting. According to their website the project is a collaborative effort between government agencies and non-profit organizations, and has at its core the idea that in order to protect wildlife a holistic approach is needed, one which takes into account the interconnected nature of the elements within larger ecosystems. This is a very forward-thinking and encouraging approach - anyone who spends time outdoors knows that not only are there not clearly demarcated borders between, say, wetlands and forests, but that it is often precisely these points of connection and overlap which provide some of the most valuable (and vulnerable) habitat for wildlife and native vegetation. on their website they offer a fairly comprehensive but accessible description of the project and its goals, which you can view by clicking here.

Massachusetts Audubon Society

The protection of wildlife habitat is a topic I care deeply about, and in the Bay State, the Massachusetts Audubon Society has played a key role for more than 100 years in the preservation of a wide range of important New England habitats, from salt marsh and beaches to forests and meadows. According to their website the organization is currently trying to raise funds to protect habitat in at least two locations, including for the expansion of the North River Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, through the acquisition of  31 additional acres of land which would add additional streams, trails and woods to the existing sanctuary property. Having spent a delightful afternoon exploring this sanctuary earlier this year, I can only imagine that its expansion will only help to enhance the experience that future generations will have as they soak in the natural beauty of this place in the years ahead. You can find out about this project by clicking here.

Well, I think that about does it for now - if you know of a group or organization which is doing important work in habitat protection or restoration I would love to hear about. I'm always looking for new groups to write about and learn from.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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