Important Bird and Birding Areas
A Brief History of Important Bird Areas
IBA - A Global Start
The Important Bird Area (IBA) Program has emerged as the leading and most comprehensive international initiative for saving habitat for birds and other wildlife. Part of a global initiative begun by BirdLife International, this program is part of a dynamic worldwide effort to identify and protect outstanding habitats for birds.
IBA spreads to North America
The program's resounding success spread to North America, where the IBA Program has become pivotal to a continent-wide bird conservation strategy. Working in partnership with the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society launched its IBA initiative in 1995, establishing programs state by state, which provided conservation leaders with the flexibility to tailor the program to their needs of their state.
IBA Programs in forty-seven states have successfully identified over 2400 Important Bird Areas, furthered the protection of millions of acres of habitat, improved management practices on thousands more and raised public awareness about the value of habitat for birds and other wildlife. IBA programs should be underway in all 50 states in the near future.
IBA Success Stories
The IBA Program has led the way in forming productive partnerships between each state's conservation and birding communities. The IBA program has brought together the top ornithologists, wildlife agencies, environmental groups and others around a common cause. In New York, the criteria for identifying Important Bird Areas have been adopted into law, making habitat protection a priority on potentially millions of acres of state-owned lands. In Pennsylvania, National Audubon was recognized as the 1997 Conservation Organization of the Year by the Pennsylvania Wildlife Federation for its IBA Program achievements.
The IBA Program is responsible for safeguarding hundreds of sites and hundreds of thousands of acres around the world. That is in part because the IBA concept is simple: compile an inventory of priority areas that need to be saved in order to sustain healthy and diverse bird populations and then focus attention and action on saving them.
IBA isn't "Just for the Birds"
Birds have been shown to be effective indicators of biodiversity in other animal groups and plants - especially when used to define a set of sites for conservation. So although the IBA network is defined by its bird fauna, the conservation of these sites ensures the survival of a correspondingly large number of other animals and plants and helps preserve water and air quality.
As the emphasis moves from site identification to site monitoring and protection, the IBA Program thus makes a major contribution to global biodiversity conservation. IBA sites are not the only way of conserving birds and other biodiversity, but they form part of a wider, integrated approach to conservation and sustainable development that focuses on species, habitats and people.
Natural habitats are islands of rich ecological complexity in a landscape which is increasingly simplified and vulnerable to man-made perturbations. Remaining semi-natural habitats at key sites such as lakes, rivers, forests, reefs, mires and grasslands can make an inordinate contribution to mediating the natural cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other substances through the environment by filtering, buffering, purifying, storing and replenishing the substances that make life possible. A healthy environment is good for both birds, people and all living things.