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  • IUCN

Forest Service International Programs: October 2021 Update

The USDA Forest Service works domestically and internationally to improve people’s lives. The Agency enhances economic opportunities and strengthens civil society by promoting sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation globally. The Office of International Programs collaborates with partners in more than 90 countries on sustainable forest management, watershed management, combatting illegal logging, fire preparedness and response, and many other significant topics. By linking the skills of the field-based staff of the U.S. Forest Service with partners overseas, the agency can address the world’s most critical natural resource management issues and concerns. Please enjoy this issue of monthly news and updates featuring the work of our Migratory Species team. For more information about any of the information contained here please visit our website or contact Director Val Mezainis at Sign up for these monthly updates and other International Programs news here.

Migratory species like birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies play valuable ecological roles; they strengthen ecosystems, pollinate plants, and contribute many other benefits to people and the environment. Despite their value, many of these species continue to face threats and their populations are declining.

The U.S. Forest Service invests in protecting habitat for migratory species here in the United States -- many of which spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean. If habitats outside of the United States are not protected, the U.S. domestic investment in conservation is wasted. The Migratory Species Program works in partnership with local, national and international organizations across the Americas to develop capacity to sustainably manage the winter homes of these animals.

Recent studies show that the rates of decline for the Rufous, Allen's, and Broad-tailed hummingbirds have accelerated nearly three-fold since 2009. Forest Service International Programs launched the Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) to address such declines in migratory hummingbird populations. With facilitation from Environment for the Americas, WHP supports research and education projects in the U.S., Canada and Mexico that seek to uncover the causes of these declines. Current projects focus on the effects of wildfire, floral and nectar preferences, and pesticides on hummingbirds. The WHP also develops trainings for hummingbird researchers and land managers seeking to restore flowering plants for pollinators.

Forest Service International Programs recently awarded grants to protect and restore habitat for the imperiled western monarch butterfly. Populations of the western monarch are in steep decline, down 99% over the past decade. The Migratory Species Program has been working for years with the Monarch Joint Venture and the Xerces Society. The program recently added support for the urgent efforts of organizations like the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, River Partners, and Deschutes Land Trust to reverse the rapid decline of this iconic species. Efforts include protecting overwintering sites, planting early-season native milkweed, and establishing pollinator-friendly plants that provide nectar along migratory flyways.

Shorebirds thrive in coastal environments and wetlands, which are often the same areas where people produce shrimp, rice and salt. However, the work of Aves y Conservación, Asociación Calidris, and Manomet Conservation Science is proving that birds and humans do not necessarily need to compete for these spaces. The Migratory Species Program is partnering with these organizations to promote innovative conservation practices for working lands in Latin America. Aves y Conservación is promoting methods for salt producers to create and conserve salty habitat with abundant food sources for shorebirds. Asociación Calidris is working with rice producers to make their operations more "bird friendly." Manomet Conservation Science is developing sustainable practices with shrimp producers in Central America.

The Migratory Species Program is collaborating with Bat Conservation International (BCI) to restore one million agave plants in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The Mexican long-nosed bat and the lesser long-nosed bat rely on nectar from flowering wild agave plants for their daily caloric needs; in turn, these bats pollinate agave flowers and other important desert plants. BCI and its partners planted over 4,000 agave plants in 2021 with funding from Forest Service International Programs and other organizations. The initiative is also building capacity in Mexico to collect agave seeds and propagate thousands of agave plants in the coming years. In addition to planting agave, BCI is raising awareness among mescal producers about the mutually-beneficial relationship between migratory bats and agave.

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