Columbia News Video Forum

Protecting Migratory Species Must Be a Cooperative Effort among Nations, Concludes Panel

Migratory birds are of great ecological and economic significance to nations around the world. For many, especially those living in an urban environment, birds are their only contact with the natural world. Not only do birds provide tremendous enjoyment to millions, but they are also an excellent indicator of the overall health of our ecosystems. Migratory birds face serious challenges. Many species are in decline because of habitat loss, collisions with artificial structures and environmental pollution.

Migratory birds cross the boundaries of nations, watersheds and ecosystems. Protecting them must be a cooperative effort that involves multiple nations and interests. Using birds as its centerpiece, a panel, "Flyways and Highways: How Do We Protect Migratory Species," hosted by the Nature Conservancy, Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), presented discussions on the implications of habitat loss and land development for migratory animals and the issues that conservationists and policymakers face in trying to protect wide-ranging species. Panelists included scientists from the Nature Conservancy, Columbia and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation.

Kimberly Wheaton

Kimberly Wheaton, conservation planner, the Nature Conservancy, explained why it is important to think about landscape scale planning that recognizes eco-regional boundaries as opposed to political borders, citing examples of neo-tropical birds on the Gulf Coast, salmon in the Pacific Northwest and caribou herds in the Alaska-Yukon region.

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Lawrence Niles

In describing the flight of the Red Knot from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, Lawrence Niles, Chief of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program, Division of Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, pointed out that the trip down is less problematic than the return trip. In returning to the almost barren North American spring, the Red Knot encounters limited resources and so a sensitive timeline.

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Pat Patterson

Pat Patterson, Director, Wings of the Americas, The Nature Conservancy, said "To integrate birds in eco-regional planning is very difficult because birds don't pay attention to state boundaries. They go where they want, when they want."

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Paul Schmidt

Reporting that more than 300 wildlife species migrate between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Paul Schmidt, Deputy Assistant Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained that migratory birds seek out environments most favorable to their needs at different times of the year. Schmidt stressed that these birds are man's "stickiest conservation challenge," and conservationists must attempt to save both wintering areas and stop-over sites if "the global web is to be maintained."

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Stuart Pimm

Stuart Pimm, professor of Conservation Biology, Center for Environmental Research and Conservancy, said "conservation is an enormously difficult and complicated task even under the best circumstances." Pimm explained that migration is an indication of how we are connected on a hemispheric scale with changes in our country and beyond, from the Arctic to the tropics to South America. He cited the burning of the Amazon basin as the cause for the loss of a number of migratory species.

Real (12:51)Video

Published: Dec 06, 2001
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002