Written by Theresa Rose on August 5, 2015

KEOSAUQUA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will discuss the proposed designation of the region including Lake Sugema Wildlife Management Area, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park and Shimek Forest Keosauqua Unit as a state Bird Conservation Area (BCA) during a public meeting on August 19.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Lacey-Keosauqua State Park Lodge, located at the northwest entrance to the park on Iris Trail and a half-mile south of County Road J40 (about two miles west of Keosauqua and on the west side of the Des Moines River).

Iowa’s Bird Conservation Area program evolved from a model developed by Wisconsin DNR and the national Partners In Flight program, and an official designation of Lake Sugema-Lacey-Keosauqua BCA will give national recognition to this area’s importance for all nesting and migratory birds that depend on its significant amount of grassland and woodland habitat.

“This proposed Bird Conservation Area is extremely unique in Iowa, because it contains land cover that includes 43 percent grassland, 35 percent woodland and a fair amount of wetland habitat – providing homes to at least 112 nesting bird species, many of which are declining at an alarming rate,” said Bruce Ehresman, with the DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program. “From birds of large forests, like red-shouldered hawk, Cerulean warbler and wood thrush, savanna species such as red-headed woodpecker and northern mockingbird, to declining grassland birds like northern bobwhite and bobolink, this unique area includes portions of the Des Moines and Fox rivers and adjoining private lands, and it provides an ideal southern Iowa setting for improved bird conservation efforts.”

The Bird Conservation Area concept focuses on all-bird conservation at a large landscape scale, and the program’s success depends upon partnerships between public agencies, private conservation organizations, and private landowners. Each BCA consists of at least 10,000 acres with one or more core areas of permanently protected bird habitat surrounded by large areas of privately owned land that also provides important habitat for birds. Core public lands are managed for all wild birds, but especially for those species experiencing regional or continental population declines.

Wildlife biologists and private lands specialists work with willing landowners to find ways to improve their properties for birds. The program is entirely voluntary, non-regulatory, and can result in extra incentives for landowners to make bird habitat improvements.

“Establishing a Bird Conservation Area helps draw attention to the needs of birds that are in trouble, and it also allows the local community and concerned citizens an opportunity to take action to help these birds,” said Jeff Glaw, area wildlife management biologist for the DNR. “Declining nesting species ranging from game species like Northern Bobwhite to nongame species such as Whip-poor-will all should benefit from the creation of the Lake Sugema-Lacey-Keosauqua Bird Conservation Area.”

Establishing this Bird Conservation Area should increase recreational opportunities and be an economic boost for Van Buren County. While a high percentage of bird species are declining, watching birds is one of the fastest growing pastimes in North America. According to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, people in Iowa now spend more dollars on watching wildlife than on hunting wildlife and just slightly less than what they spend on fishing. Together, these recreational activities bolster Iowa’s economy by nearly $1 billion each year.