"I'm sending out a major wake-up call to the ornithological community. The birds of the world are in trouble, and we need to act now," said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, about a call out to birders during a presentation Wednesday morning at the Fifth International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. "If we wait to act, efforts to save them will only become more expensive and we will lose species."
Fenwick announced during his "Can Conservation Save Birds?" presentation that the American Bird Conservancy was pledging $50 million for bird recovery.
"We often go to other sources, but we have to pony up some money, too," Fenwick told The Salt Lake Tribune. "That's a big bucket to fill, and it will take some time. But we have to show we are committed in every way."
Birding experts say organizations with funds show other entities they are serious about their conservation work and encourage federal and state wildlife agencies, as well as corporations, to get involved.
"I don't know how exactly the money will be raised, but this is a great step to get more awareness and try to wake people up to this great cause," said Bill Fenimore, a lifelong birder, Utah Wildlife Board member and former Utah representative for the Audubon Society. "There are groups out there like The Nature Conservancy and National Audubon which have been doing a good job where they can, but this allows us to use a broader brush on the landscape we are trying to paint."
The American Bird Conservancy staged the conference, which ran from Sunday to Wednesday and drew more than 200 attendees representing more than 100 organizations from across the Americas.
The theme of the conference was "Full Life-Cycle Conservation," emphasizing the importance of efforts to work across the range a bird will use throughout its life. That includes spring and fall migration routes and stops along the way.
According to the American Bird Conservancy, a third of the country's 800 species are "endangered, threatened or in significant decline." Loss of habitat in U.S. grasslands, coasts and arid lands are likely contributors to the decline.
Other concerns include pesticides, predation from nonnative species, feral cats and collisions with man-made structures.
Sessions during the conference also focused on developing "conservation business plans" to prioritize improvements for migratory bird habitat across the Americas.
Conference attendees were split into eight ecological regions ranging from north to south, including wintering and breeding grounds and migration routes.
The goal is "a conservation blueprint for the most imperiled migratory species that will deliver a better future for those declining migrants."
Utah, Fenwick said, was the perfect location for the conference, which includes field trips to a variety of popular birding destinations.
"Birders love to bounce around the country for this conference," he said. "Birding in Utah is spectacular; there is such a diversity. I wish I had more time to spend here."