Achieving Conservation on Private Lands
Five Valleys Audubon Society (Missoula, MT)
Establishing and protecting the Clark Fork River-Grass Valley IBA has been a major objective of the Five Valleys Audubon Society (FVAS), based in Missoula, Montana, for meeting its conservation goals. Because over 80 percent of the land in the IBA is under private ownership, the Chapter works closely with landowners, land use planners and developers. Involving partners such as a local land trust has also considerably strengthened FVAS’ conservation efforts.
After identifying individuals that owned property in the IBA, the Chapter made introductory visits to explain the IBA concept. FVAS volunteered to conduct bird surveys as a part of documenting bird life in the IBA. Bird surveys offer a great way to enter into a conversation with landowners and explore their interests in conservation. Landowners are invited to join the survey even though only a few usually wish to participate. Establishing trust with landowners sets the stage for accomplishing conservation, which might include habitat enhancement, conservation easements or something as simple as putting up a bird house.
Subdivisions impacting the IBA are also a major concern, so FVAS meets with County land use planners. Discussions focus on habitat concerns and particular species and groups of species such as neotropical migrant songbirds that could be adversely impacted by developments. Planners have come to respect the Chapter’s science-backed knowledge and invite comment on proposed developments. FVAS comments are now welcomed on proposed developments beyond the IBA, and the Chapter is regularly called on to review all development proposals county-wide, with comments and recommendations submitted on about one-third of those--the ones significantly affecting wildlife habitat. This review process has meant testifying at hearings before the County Commission, the decision making body for the proposals. FVAS focuses on providing science-based information about disturbance impacts--especially in riparian areas--and stresses the need to interact early with developers and landowners in making their plans.
Many developers have also come to know FVAS as a respected group to consider in their planning work. In one case, the Chapter testified successfully against a proposed gravel operation because of disturbance to species of conservation concern. Next, the same developer proposed a large-scale subdivision. FVAS, together with a land trust representative, met with the developer, walked his property, and discussed important habitat and resource values for future generations. As a result, the developer modified his plan and excluded over 200 acres from development with plans to manage it for agriculture and wildlife. In another case, the Chapter met with a land owner to help him develop a habitat restoration plan that was required before the County would approve his development on a semi industrial site. Twice, developers have invited FVAS to discuss a proposal they were working on before it went out for formal review.
Recently, FVAS has been invited to participate in revision of subdivision regulations, giving the Chapter an opportunity to strengthen wildlife protection measures. Throughout these endeavors, FVAS has maintained a non-confrontational approach, provided scientifically credible information, and has been willing to work with developers and landowners. This has been very effective in cultivating respect for the Chapter’s recommendations.
FOR MORE INFO
Contact Jim Brown, FVAS Habitat Protection and Restoration Chair, at 406-549-8052 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Clark Fork River-Grass Valley IBA, visit http://iba.audubon.org/iba/viewSiteProfile.do?siteId=2822&navSite=state.