The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has proposed designating an area of Fremont County that includes Waubonsie State Park and Riverton and Forney Lake wildlife areas as a state Bird Conservation Area (BCA).
A public meeting to discuss the proposal and hear public comments is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17 at Waubonsie State Park’s Washawtee Lodge.
The concept of a Bird Conservation Area focuses on bird conservation on a large scale, with each BCA comprising at least 10,000 acres. The program's success depends on partnerships between public agencies, private conservation groups, and private landowners.
Bruce Ehresman of the Iowa DNR's Wildlife Diversity Program points out the uniqueness of the Lower Loess Hills in terms of its “wide variety of woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands, providing habitat for 128 nesting birds and 282 bird species overall.”
“From large forest birds like the broad-winged hawk and wood thrush, to savanna species like the barn owl and red-headed woodpecker, to declining grassland birds like eastern meadowlark and bobolink, this unique area encompasses a beautiful portion of the Loess Hills…providing an ideal southwestern Iowa setting for what can become Iowa’s twenty-fourth Bird Conservation Area,” says  Ehresman.
Wildlife biologists and private lands specialists work with willing landowners to find ways to improve their properties for birds. Participation in this BCA program is completely voluntary, and there are no restrictions or requirements placed on landowners. The program can result in extra incentives for landowners to make bird habitat improvements.
Each BCA establishes one or more core areas of permanently protected bird habitat surrounded by large areas of privately owned land that also provides important habitat for birds. Core public lands are managed for all wild birds, but especially for those species experiencing regional or continental population declines.
“Establishing a Bird Conservation Area helps draw attention to the needs of birds that are in trouble, while it allows the local community and concerned citizens an opportunity to take action to help these birds,” said Matt Dollison, wildlife management biologist for the DNR. “Declining species ranging from game birds like northern bobwhite and blue-winged teal to nongame species such as whip-poor-will and belted kingfisher all can benefit from the creation of the Lower Loess Hills Bird Conservation Area.”
Dollison and Ehresman encourage anyone interested in bird conservation, bird watching, and improved natural resource management to join them for this informative public meeting.
The Washawtee Lodge is on Washawtee Rd., one half mile northeast of Bluff Rd. (County Road L44), 4.5 miles north of Hamburg.