Conservation Column

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

Debbie Schlenoff                                541.685.0610                             dschlenoff (at)

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)

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.

Conservation Column Oct 2014: Human Activities Affect Birdsong

Debbie Schlenoff

Scientists are studying the psychological benefits that accrue when people listen to the sounds of birds. It is thought that hearing birds sing may help us to relax and recover from stress, assist our focus on tasks, and inspire us to think creatively. Given our deep connection to birdsong in poetry, music, and our daily lives, people would be wise to try to understand the potential impact of human activities on this behavior.

Conservation Column Sep 2014: Football Stadium Design Is Dangerous for Birds

Debbie Schlenoff

Sports teams have often branded themselves with animal monikers (hello, Duck fans!). Football teams borrow from our feathered friends—the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks. So it is sadly ironic that the massive football stadium under construction in Minneapolis will result in a large and unnecessary number of bird deaths. The new Vikings stadium, located on a migratory flyway next to the Mississippi River, features large expanses of glass (200,000 square feet) and is expected to kill thousands of birds if built as originally designed. Birds don’t see glass and will attempt to fly through the invisible barrier, only to be brought up short when they collide with the glass. The collisions are often fatal.

Conservation Column Jul–Aug 2014: North America’s Bird Nursery Is Under Pressure

Debbie Schlenoff

I’m always impressed by the skill with which many birders can identify bird species by ear. The birds can one-up us though; they can recognize individual birds by song. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that birds can discriminate between the songs sung by their neighbors and those sung by strangers. For birds, good relationships with neighbors may prove important. When blackbirds have familiar neighbors, they expend less energy to defend boundaries and have better reproductive success than birds that have to deal with strangers in the adjacent territory. In Great Tits, familiarity between long-term neighbors leads to cooperative behavior that increases nesting success. Birds, of course, do not recognize the territorial boundaries between neighboring human nations. Turns out that many of the birds we see in our backyards journey from our urban environment to the most extensive wilderness area left on earth, the boreal forest of our neighbor to the north. 

Conservation Column May-Jun 2014: Rodenticides Kill More Than Rodents

People have long been fascinated by owls. Search for the term owl facts and you’ll find lists such as fun owl facts and awesome owl facts (because, well, owls are awesome). On some of these lists, you’ll learn that a Barn Owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year. Many owl species are voracious eaters and feed mostly on rodents. But for owls today, capturing and eating their main food source could prove deadly.