Conservation Column

Conservation Column: California Condor Recovery Update

Rowdy teenagers were getting into some trouble and people were concerned about their ability to comfortably fit into a complex society. The solution: a mentorship program where an experienced adult was able to keep the rambunctious youngsters in line and engage their interest. This mentor program has been working successfully for years as part of the California Condor recovery effort, where conservationists and scientists work hard to save the condor from extinction and reintroduce the birds into the wild. In 1987, only 22 individuals were found in the wild and shortly thereafter were taken into captivity. Thanks to a comprehensive recovery program with its focus on careful breeding, mentorship and training programs, there are now over 400 condors with just over half of them living in the wild. 

Conservation Column: History of the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count and How the Data Is Used Today

How the Count Started

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas Side Hunt. They would choose sides and go afield with their guns. Whichever team brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation awareness was just in its beginning stages then, as many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario, to Pacific Grove, California, with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. The combined tally of the original 27 Christmas Bird Counters came to around 90 species. 

In the present, from December 14 through January 5 each year, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain to take part in the effort. 

Conservation Column: Outdoor School—The True Elixir

Daffy’s elixir was a popular product sold in Britain in the 18th century. It promised to prevent or cure pretty much every ailment known to man, from lack of energy to “griping of the bowels.” Despite its popularity for over a century (later the recipe was found to be mostly brandy), few people today would be duped by its claim as “the choice drink of health.” But what if something like this were real? What if there was a relatively quick and inexpensive way to achieve the following health benefits for our children: stress reduction, prevention of mental health disorders including depression, decreased need for ADHD drugs, and improved attention spans? What if it also had been shown to lower the risk of smoking and substance abuse, boost serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter), increase levels of Vitamin D, result in better distance vision, and decrease the risk of obesity and other metabolic disorders associated with too much inactivity?

Conservation Column - Communications between Humans and Wild Species—It’s Essential

I wish more people talked to animals. Communing with nature has been shown to improve both our mental health and physical well being. I wish more people listened to nature. Paying attention to wild animals is a window to both the endless wonders of nature and to the quality of the job we are doing at protecting it. With so many birds and other wildlife in such steep decline, it is a thundering wake-up call to change business as usual. A connection with nature helps us all to appreciate long-term values rather than just concentrating on short-term profits.

In a fascinating example of cooperation between free-living wild animals and human animals, the African Greater Honeyguide cooperates with people to find bee nests and share the spoils. The birds guide people to the location of a bee nest (hence the name) and the people secure the nest. They then share the food without competition; the birds are wax eaters and the people are honey eaters. This mutual cooperation requires two-way communication. Honeyguides call in a particular way to get people’s attention and then guide them to the food source by flitting from tree to tree. A study by Spottiswoode et al. published this summer explored the human side of the conversation. Scientists found that a special vocal call made by Mozambican honey-hunters notably increased the probability of mutualistic success.

Conservation Column November 2015: Under the Umbrella

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


With the arrival of fall, I’m thinking about raincoats and umbrellas and walking in the rain under the canopy of the verdant Northwest forests. Conservationists too are often thinking about umbrellas. 

They are understandably concerned about getting the most coverage for their efforts. One way to do this is to identify ecosystems in need of protection and then target large regions, so that all the inhabitants of a region are sheltered under the umbrella of the conservation plan. Another strategy is to identify an umbrella species and put in place protections that would benefit not just that threatened species, but also other species that co-occur with it. Given the common but unfortunate short-term approach to economic gain, the political landscape, and the competing uses for land, this umbrella approach can be an efficient strategy for protecting the most species possible with limited resources.

Conservation Column Oct 2015: Environmental Issues Update

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


Members of Lane County Audubon Society care about birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. We strive to keep up with environmental issues and take action when possible to promote conservation and enjoyment of wild places. We submit comments on environmental impact statements and management proposals. We write letters or sign on to letters with other organizations concerning projects and proposed legislation. In this month’s column, I’d like to update you on some of the issues we’ve taken action on.

Conservation Column Sep 2015: New Rules Adopted to Protect Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


The Greater Sage-Grouse has been a subject of intense debate in Salem during the last few months. On July 27 of this year, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC) and the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) adopted new, more restrictive rules to mitigate impacts by solar, wind, and mining projects in the sage-grouse habitat of Oregon. The new rules are an attempt by the state to head off a possible endangered species listing for the bird by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The listing, scheduled to be decided in September, would impose new regulations in the 11 states that contain Greater Sage-Grouse habitat. As one of these states, Oregon would face new federal regulations on development and ranching, particularly in central and eastern Oregon where 90% of the Oregon sage-grouse population resides.

Conservation Column Jul-Aug 2015: BLM Needs Your Comments on Resource Management Plan

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


UPDATE: The BLM has extended the comment period for the Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement until August 21, 2015.

While hiking on a shaded trail next to a burbling creek, you reach for your guidebook to identify a striking wildflower.... To find the diameter of an immense old-growth tree, you and your companions encircle it, stretch your arms wide, and reach for one another’s hands.... When a flash of color catches your eye or a warbling note touches your ear, you reach for your binoculars, asking, “What kind of bird was that?” Have you ever done these things? Do you want people to be able to have these kinds of experiences in the future? If so, then reach for your keyboard, write your comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft resource management plan, and email them to the BLM.

Conservation Column May 2015: It’s Time to Invest in the Future of the Earth

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at) msn.com


A recent article in Current Biology (Conde et al., 2015) examined the costs of preventing the extinction of about 900 vertebrate species (and their habitats) listed by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE). They calculated the costs for conservation in the animal’s natural habitats as well as for maintaining insurance populations in zoos. The total was about $1.1 billion, with an average cost per species of $1.3 million. Another report (McCarthy et al., 2012) concluded that about $1 billion per year for a decade would reduce the extinction risk for all globally threatened bird species, and $4 billion per year for a decade would downlist all threatened species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. A total of $76 billion per year for a decade would establish and protect habitats and ecosystems globally.

Pages