Spirit of Collaboration Soars After State Conservation Partnership Chairs Meet in New Mexico

IWJV State Conservation Partnership Chairs and Staff. Bottom row, from left to right: Ashley Dayer (IWJV), Ali Duvall (IWJV), Brent Lathrop (WY). Top row, from left to right: Robin Wilson (NV), Terry Mansfield (WA), Steve Tessmann (WY), John Ranlett (CA), Dan Casey (MT), Alan Hamilton (NM), Don Kemner (ID), Catherine Wightman (MT), Dave Cagle (AZ), Bruce Taylor (OR), Nate Key (CA), Jason Vernon (UT), and Seth Gallagher (CO).

As a newcomer to the Intermountain West Joint Venture, I knew this organization was composed of many dedicated partners in bird habitat conservation, but I hadn’t experienced their passion firsthand until earlier this month. At the annual in-person meeting of the IWJV State Conservation Partnership (SCP) Chairs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this ardor for feathered things came alive. The packed agenda, enthusiastic discussions, presentations, and field tour of New Mexico’s arid and biologically rich landscape forged a collective energy that continues to resonate in the IWJV Missoula office.

Partners powered through a day-and-a-half facilitated meeting that focused on habitat delivery implementation. The meeting started with an update from IWJV Staff on current programs and projects. Dan Casey, long-time science team member and conservation partner, led a brief training session on the Habitat and Population Strategies Database, a decision support tool for landbird habitat conservation. Coordinator Dave Smith provided a national and regional outlook for Joint Venture bird habitat conservation in 2013. Bruce Taylor of Oregon, and John Ranlett and Nate Key of California, gave presentations on habitat delivery efforts in their states.

January is a great time to watch wintering sandhill cranes in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

A plethora of ideas were exchanged during small-group working sessions where participants addressed the status of coordinated bird habitat conservation implementation in their states, barriers, and solutions. The group also spent an important part of the meeting discussing SCP Chair roles and responsibilities, and provided feedback on how the IWJV office could better support their partnership needs.

Ali Duvall, Assistant Coordinator and lead staff for SCPs, said, “We have a powerful team with respect to the SCP Chairs, and we, as staff, need to work closely with these leaders to promote strategic on-the-ground conservation across the Intermountain West.”

When the meeting adjourned participants headed south to visit the LaJoya Wildlife Management Area and refuge. Our final stop was at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro County where Gina Dello Russo, Refuge Ecologist, treated us to a special tour. Dello Russo has worked at Bosque for 16 years and provided a detailed overview of the dynamic management of the 57,331-acre refuge with its historic and active floodplains, wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests. Collaborative efforts continue to ensure this place remains a winter refuge for thousands of birds. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act program is one of these efforts, which has funded restoration in Bosque and conservation easements in adjacent areas along the Middle Rio Grande.

Sunset at Bosque del Apache NWR.

At sunset, Dello Russo led our group under the cover of thick willows to witness what makes Bosque such a cherished place: thousands upon thousands of cranes and geese returning to the flooded fields to roost for the night. As the waterfowl dropped into their wintering waters their ruckus was glorious. Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, a Swamp Sparrow, Mexican Ducks, and a Great Horned Owl are only a few of the species spotted (if you would like a full list, ask Dan Casey).

Before returning to our respective states, new and veteran IWJV partners reflected on the past week. This was Nate Key’s (California) first in-person SCP meeting:

“In addition to the great laughs and recipe-sharing, the meeting provided solid direction for my own JV activities, thanks to the examples set by the other conservation Chairs,” Key said. “Their passion motivates me to do more for California.”

“There’s no doubt that these gatherings help us develop synergy across the IWJV partnership,” said Dan Casey. “They send everyone home with ideas on how to achieve our grander purpose – strategic bird conservation across the Intermountain West.”

For more information about SCPs in the Intermountain West and the organizations they represent, click here.


Also in the Winter, 2013 issue of Conservation Roundup: