- May 13, 2011
A Walk In The Park
According to the 2011 State of the Birds Report, public lands are absolutely essential for effective bird conservation. Although private land can (and certainly does!) make a big impact on behalf of birds, the fact is, our parks provide stopover migratory habitat, protect endangered species, and buffer rare ecosystems from urban and agricultural development. Yet our public areas are vulnerable to increasing demands for natural resources, an expanding urban interface, and imposing threats to entire ecosystems. Our parks, from the city to the national scale, belong to all of us; it is our collective responsibility to help ensure that they can stand up to the pressures of today while fulfilling their obligations for tomorrow. In this article, we offer suggestions for ways to get involved at your local park, from the community to the national level. Although we don’t mention state and national forests, wildlife refuges, or other preserves here, many of the suggestions provided will be applicable to most kinds of public lands.
Municipal parks are often designated to meet a wide variety of social needs, including exercise, recreation, and access to nature. But most of our city parks face constraints on funding and labor, not to mention disagreement over the best use of space. Don’t get wrapped up in the outcome of past administrations; focus on that little patch where you know Palm Warblers are reliably seen every year, and think about what you can do to preserve it. Check your city’s official webpage for a complete list of city parks near you.
What can you do?
- Inventory park birds by participating in a bird survey (don’t forget to report your observations to eBird)
- Find out if pesticides are used in the park, and if so, campaign for their reduction
- Adopt an area of the park and maintain it in a bird-friendly way (e.g., remove litter, discard fishing lines and 6-pack rings, put up a nest box, plant flowers, remove invasive species, etc.)
- Identify and map existing significant bird habitat areas using YardMap
- Join a committee or commission as an at-large member and coordinate with other governments’ and
non-governmental organizations’ projects to promote bird habitat
- Apply for a grant to be used for habitat improvement and/or educational signage in your local park
There are over 7,800 state park units that are visited annually by 720 million people. Most state parks are too understaffed to conduct ongoing bird or wildlife research. Volunteers are always needed to help conduct surveys, maintain research equipment, and develop green tourism. To find a state park in your area, visit America’s State Parks online.
What can you do?
- Create or maintain a birding checklist for the park (use eBird for help)
- Lead a scouting group on a camping trip
- Take on a vacant Breeding Bird Survey route in your local state park
- Coordinate a nest box program for species in need (e.g., Wood Duck, Prothonotary Warbler) and report your observations to NestWatch
- Provide public input on proposed management plans and advocate for the conservation of birds in state parks
Our national parks are our legacy, and some have called them “America’s Best Idea”. In fact, 285 million people visit 394 national parks every year in hopes of experiencing nature at its best. But managing tourists, infrastructure, cultural resources, and nuisance wildlife takes up a lot of staff time and budget. Read on to find out how you can help, then find the national park nearest you using the National Park Service’s website. Alternatively, learn more about how the National Park Service is taking its work into local communities to develop cultural and natural resources in a town near you.
What can you do?
- If you like working with people, volunteer as a naturalist educator for park visitors
- If you like doing behind-the-scenes work, become a habitat stewardship volunteer
- Donate your skills as a photographer, mapper, writer, etc. to meet specific park needs
- Join a “Friends of the Park” organization and recruit others
- Donate to a specific park fund that inspires you (e.g., land acquisition, youth education)