Research partnership headed by U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station awarded 'Wings Across the Americas' National Research and Partnership Award for work on neotropical migratory birds

FORT COLLINS, Colorado , March 20, 2012 (press release) – A 10-year collaborative partnership that coalesced around the relationships between Neotropical migratory birds, their habitats, increasing fires, and the spread of exotic woody species in riparian ecosystems of the southwestern United States brought national recognition to Dr. Deborah Finch of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and her multi-organizational team. The team’s project, “Bird Responses to Invasive Species, Fire and Fuel Removal in Vulnerable Southwestern Ecosystems,” was recognized with the “National Research and Partnership Award” from the Wings of The Americas program.

Finch, RMRS Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems program manager at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM and RMRS team members David Hawksworth, June Galloway, and Max Smith, and Walter Dunn of the Forest Service Southwestern Region’s State and Private Forestry worked closely with partners from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, City of Albuquerque Open Space and the Joint Fire Science Program to evaluate how control of invasive species, fuel removal and other restoration actions could contribute toward bird and habitat conservation.

“Over the last century, riparian communities along the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico have become increasingly stressed due to fires, exotic plants, increased fuel biomass, long-term drought conditions and water shortages,” Finch said.

The increased danger of wildfires in the riparian forest, known in New Mexico as “the bosque” led to numerous fuel reduction restoration projects. “However, little was known about how fire itself or habitat alterations from fuel removal might affect local bird populations,” Finch said. “This partnership has provided valuable information on fuel reduction methods that reduce fire danger while conserving bird populations.”

Finch along with representative team members accepted the award on March 14, 2012 at the 2012 Wings Across the Americas Conservation Awards ceremony held in Atlanta, GA during the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference.

“Wings Across the Americas” is a Forest Service program that represents an integrated and collaborative approach to bird conservation across agency program areas including Research and Development, the National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and International Programs.

The RMRS is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. Their research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs.

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