Nature Canada continues supporting Canada’s most important sites for birds!
The Important Bird and Biodiversity Program (IBA) has been active in Canada since 1996, and Nature Canada has been there to help guide its development every step of the way. A program of BirdLife International, developed and implemented in Canada by Nature Canada and its BirdLife Canada partner, Bird Studies Canada, IBAs are about identifying, recognizing and protecting (either formally or through voluntary stewardship) the network of the most important places for birds.
IBAs are discrete sites supporting specific groups of birds: threatened birds, large groups of birds, and birds restricted by range or by habitat. IBAs range in size from very tiny patches of habitat to large tracts of land or water. They may encompass any combination of private and public land, and indigenous homelands. A recent study of Canada’s IBAs revealed that only about 1/3 of IBA area is legally protected (e.g. in a national or provincial park or some other form of protected area). That means that 2/3’s of these ecological treasures lack protection.
IBAs are identified using criteria that are internationally agreed upon, standardized, quantitative, and scientifically defensible. This gives them a conservation currency that transcends international borders and promotes international collaboration for the conservation of the world’s birds. It also makes IBAs an important tool for identifying conservation priorities and for fostering greater success in the conservation of bird populations.
Since 2008, Nature Canada, BSC and their partners have established a network of local stewards or Caretakers in about 250 of Canada’s 600 IBA. Caretakers are individuals or groups who are the natural stewards of IBAs, involved in monitoring, outreach, education, stewardship and advocacy, depending upon the interest and skills of the Caretakers.
This year, Nature Canada was successful in receiving two grants from the Habitat Stewardship Program of Environment Canada to inject funds and capacity into the regional IBA programs in Quebec and Alberta. One of the key activities in both provinces will be holding workshops with our regional partners (Nature Quebec and Nature Alberta) to bring IBA Caretakers together to assess the state of their IBAs, reaffirm their interest and commitment, and orient conservation efforts towards declining bird species found within their IBAs. The State of Canada’s Birds 2012 determined that aerial insectivores (swallows, martins, swifts, nightjars, and flycatchers), grassland species, and shorebirds have declined by 30 to 60% over the past 40 years. Many species within these three groups are in trouble. These groups of species will be the focus of conservation attention in these workshops.
The first workshop (en français) is scheduled later this month in Sainte Adelle Quebec, and is part of Nature Quebec’s “conservation workshop” series. Our goal is to emerge with practical actions to help birds in individual IBAs. Stay tuned for the results.