Prairie du Chien and
Ferryville get ‘Bird City Wisconsin’ designations
Three more Wisconsin communities, with populations ranging from 174 to 59,498, have been saluted for their long-term commitment to working with residents to make their neighborhoods a better place for people, birds and other wildlife.
The new group brings the ranks of Bird City Wisconsin communities to 76 and includes Janesville, the state’s 10th largest city; Prairie du Chien, population 5,911, and Ferryville, one of the state’s smaller villages and now the smallest Bird City community. It wrested the title from Mississippi River neighbor De Soto, which was recognized earlier this year.
Bird City Wisconsin has recognized a total of 16 new communities in 2013, its third year of partnership-based activity to spur avian conservation efforts in cities, villages, towns and counties statewide. The program draws its major support from the Bird Protection Fund of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.
Representatives of all 76 communities are being invited to attend a special Bird City Summit that will be the focus of the 2014 annual meeting of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative March 21-22 in Oshkosh. Bird City participants will hear from experts and be invited to share best practices with each other as well as attendees from communities seeking future recognition.
Mike Reed, director of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay and a member of the Bird City steering committee, observed this week, “Bird City Wisconsin has exceeded my expectations. With city after city across the state committing time and resources to preserving birds, I am becoming more confident that my grandchildren will be able to experience the same thrill I have in discovering the amazing variety and beauty of Wisconsin’s birds.”
BCW communities each receive a special Bird City Wisconsin flag, plaque and street signs to be erected at their boundaries, marking their conservation achievements.
Modeled on the “Tree City USA” program, Bird City Wisconsin has developed 22 conservation criteria across five categories. If a community meets at least seven criteria, it can be recognized as an official Bird City. Working through its web site, www.birdcitywisconsin.org, BCW has recruited both public officials and interested citizens who belong to Audubon groups, nature preserves, bird clubs, natural history museums, conservation organizations and agencies, garden clubs, eco-minded businesses, and chambers of commerce that can be effective partners for developing and implementing Bird City strategies.
Bird City has strongly promoted the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, an all-out birding blitz where teams raise money for bird conservation while attempting to find as many bird species in Wisconsin as they can in a single 24-hour period in May. This year’s event, in which 11 Bird City communities directly participated, saw 800 donors and 155 birders raise more than $55,000 for priority bird conservation projects in Wisconsin.
Seed funding to launch the Bird City Wisconsin program in 2009-2010 was provided by the National Audubon Society and Toyota through a Together Green Innovation Grant sought by the Milwaukee Audubon Society in partnership with other bird conservation organizations.
BCW coordinator Carl Schwartz said Bird City’s community participation is resulting in:
•Improved habitat conditions for breeding and migrating birds.
•Sound management of urban forests.
•Reductions in bird fatalities caused by domestic cats allowed to roam outdoors, and by window strikes.
•Active and coordinated engagement in conservation activities.
•A strong sense of community pride in conservation accomplishments.
Kent Hall, a Bird City steering committee member and vice president of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, said, “The Bird City Wisconsin initiative has done more to awaken municipal officials to the importance of bird conservation than any program I have been associated with in my 44 years in Wisconsin.”
Schwartz said Bird City accepts applications for initial certification three times each year.
The next deadline is March 1. Efforts to earn Bird City status are under way in dozens of additional communities. Recognition is renewable annually with certification valid from April 1 to March 31.
Schwartz said the Bird City project was using its website, www.birdcitywisconsin.org, to salute each recognized community and to guide others through the application process.