TOPEKA — The Nature Conservancy and Cheyenne Bottoms are preparing for World Shorebirds Day, Wednesday, Sept. 6.
Observed every year in early September, in conjunction with a Global Shorebird Count, World Shorebirds Day celebrates those extreme migrant birds and the people and places that do the most for them.
“Some 50 percent of the world’s shorebird species are in decline, and vital habitat is being lost at a higher rate than ever,” said Robert L. Penner II, Ph.D., avian programs manager in Kansas for The Nature Conservancy and chair of the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network’s United States Committee. “We urgently need to raise public awareness around the world of these imperiled birds’ plight and the need for shorebird conservation and research.”
Penner is leading local efforts to participate in World Shorebirds Day, including a bird count at Cheyenne Bottoms and special displays at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest interior marsh in the United States. It has been designated as a “Wetland of Hemispheric Importance” by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention, and a “Globally Important Bird Area” by both the American Bird Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. According to Penner, as many as 500,000 shorebirds may use the Bottoms when conditions are favorable.
The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 8,000 acres of protected land within the Cheyenne Bottoms wetland basin because of its importance to shorebirds.
“Healthy populations of shorebirds depend on healthy wetlands and for some species, healthy grasslands,” said Penner. Conservation goals include protecting waterfowl and shorebirds alike by restoring and protecting the natural marshes, mud flats and adjoining grasslands. The Conservancy has recently partnered with Ducks Unlimited on some restoration activities and with the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on outreach. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism owns an adjoining 26,000-acre wildlife area at Cheyenne Bottoms.
Penner hopes the day of recognition will help connect people to shorebird conservation on a global scale.
“As important as Cheyenne Bottoms is, it’s just one stop on a journey thousands of miles long. If we do not also work on conservation every step of the way, from the tundra of the artic to the beaches of Tierra Del Fuego, efforts at Cheyenne Bottoms could be a waste,” he said. “Shorebird conservation is truly an international issue and our work in Kansas plays a major role.”
More information, including an interactive map of Global Shorebirds Day activities, can be found at facebook.com/TNCKansas or https://worldshorebirdsday.wordpress.com/
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. In Kansas, the Conservancy has protected 132,911 acres of the state’s most ecologically important lands and waters. To learn more, visit www.nature.org/kansas.