A ceremony to dedicate three Stephens State Forest units and the surrounding area as Iowa’s newest Bird Conservation Area (BCA) will take place June 19, at 1:30 p.m. The event will be held at the Lucas County Conservation Board Headquarters at Pin Oak Marsh, located about one mile south of Chariton along Hwy. 14.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting the dedication that will include brief presentations and the unveiling of a special Bird Conservation Area sign. Following the ceremony, there will be a short tour and possible birding hike of Stephens State Forest.
The creation of Bird Conservation Areas in Iowa is a priority for DNR’s wildlife diversity program and is part of a larger international effort promoting assistance for birds with the greatest conservation need. This will be the second BCA centered on Stephens State Forest units and the fourth BCA centered on Iowa state forests.
“Designation of Stephens State Forest as Iowa’s 19th official Bird Conservation Area will give state and national recognition to the area’s importance for both nesting and migratory birds,” said Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife diversity program biologist.
Both Stephens Forest and the surrounding woodland and grassland habitat in private ownership provide critical nesting habitat for declining species such as American woodcock, whip-poor-will, wood thrush, Kentucky warbler, and bobolink. To date, 185 species of birds have been identified in this proposed BCA, with more than 25 percent of these species considered of greatest conservation need.
The emphasis of the Bird Conservation Area program is to encourage habitat conservation at a large landscape scale to establish stable or growing bird populations, and the Stephens State Forest area, with its existing tracts of public forests interspersed with privately owned woodlands and grasslands, is an ideal candidate.
Stephens State Forest-Thousand Acres BCA will be the result of state, federal, and county agencies, as well as private conservation organizations and citizens, working together to emphasize the importance of bird habitat.
“This cooperative effort represents a partnership that serves as a good example of ways to better conserve all natural resources in this unique forest-savanna landscape,” says Jessica Flatt, DNR area forester at Stephens State Forest. “Diverse management insures habitat for all native species while providing recreational opportunities for hunters, as well as hikers, bird watchers, and many other outdoor enthusiasts.”
“Bird watching is one of the nation’s fastest-growing outdoor activities, and this new BCA is likely to attract even more bird enthusiasts from throughout the region. This should result in the growth of the local tourism economy while also building sustainable local bird populations,” Ehresman said.
The public is welcome to attend this event.