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AMJV Science Coordinator Position Announced

American Bird Conservancy (ABC), an international bird conservation organization, is seeking to employ a Science Coordinator for the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture. This is a full-time position with American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) Science Coordinator works for the AMJV partnership, which consists of private, state, and federal conservation agencies and organizations that have assumed responsibility for the implementation of national and international bird conservation plans within the Appalachian Mountains Bird Conservation Region. The Science Coordinator functions as part of the AMJV Office, which is responsible for coordinating and facilitating the work of the entire AMJV partnership on all science aspects of bird conservation planning, implementation, monitoring, research, and evaluation. As Science Coordinator for the AMJV Office, the incumbent focuses on the biological underpinnings of the conservation partnership’s collective efforts – coordinating and facilitating the development and progressive refinement of a strong scientific foundation for bird conservation within the region.

This position requires a good understanding of ABC’s and AMJV’s mission, and a basic knowledge of Joint Venture structure and function. There is extensive contact with others within and outside the organization and partnership, in person, by telephone, and through e-mail and other correspondence. The work requires initiative, flexibility, and attention to detail. It is essential that the staff member in this position is able to prioritize tasks and work in a team environment. The position reports to the AMJV Coordinator and ABC’s Vice President for US Conservation Partnerships.

Primary Duties:
1. Biological Foundation: The Science Coordinator sustains an effective and thriving partnership environment for accomplishing AMJV science and technical activities. This includes enhancing the active technical infrastructure of the partnership to strengthen and progressively refine the AMJV's scientific foundation, and to assist in translating this science in support of meaningful conservation action.

2. Biological Planning and Conservation Design: In collaboration with partners, the incumbent coordinates the development of transparent, replicable, science-based procedures for establishing goals and objectives that reflect measurable biological outcomes linked across multiple spatial scales. Activities include the following: integration of biological goals and objectives of regional, national, and international bird conservation plans; linking bird population goals and objectives with habitat objectives across spatial scales; supporting development of decision support tools that guide on-the-ground conservation actions with explicit consideration of the environmental sensitivity of the landscape and broader-scale biological outcomes; integrating conservation goals and objectives across agencies, organizations and programs.

3. Conservation Delivery: The incumbent, working through the AMJV Technical Committee, working groups, and individual conservation partners, develops processes to apply and interpret decision support tools to facilitate site-scale and landscape-scale conservation decisions and guide conservation delivery activities of AMJV partners. The incumbent works with partners to effectively align and coordinate conservation delivery programs, provide technical guidance, and assist in the identification and development of federal, state, and private grant proposals supporting the habitat conservation goals and objectives of the AMJV.

4. Decision-based Monitoring and Evaluation: Working with the AMJV partnership as well as appropriate regional and national committees and networks, the incumbent assists in developing goals, objectives, protocols, and procedures for monitoring habitat change and population response at multiple spatial scales. The incumbent coordinates the development and use of conservation tracking and monitoring systems that support evaluation activities and feed into biological planning and conservation design efforts.

5. Assumption-driven Research: The incumbent works with the technical and scientific community to identify and address research needs related to key assumptions in the AMJV’s decision processes, and coordinates activities to strengthen the AMJV's scientific foundation and progressively refines its biological goals and objectives.

6. National and International Coordination: Responsibilities extend to national and international forums. The incumbent develops briefing papers on policy and technical issues associated with the implementation of national and international migratory bird conservation initiatives, and represents the AMJV partnership at national and international meetings and in the broader science arena with respect to national and international bird conservation initiatives.

Other duties as assigned.

Position Requirements:
Job requirements fall into two broad categories: (1) coordinating and facilitating the development and progressive refinement of a strong scientific foundation for bird conservation within the region (80% of time), and (2) working effectively with partners in the conservation community to develop practical conservation delivery tools based on this science (20% of time).

1. A Bachelor’s Degree and at least three years of work/research experience in a related position. Graduate degree is preferred. Demonstrated knowledge of the theories and principles of landscape ecology, population ecology, and ecosystem management.

2. Demonstrated ability to work effectively with conservation professionals and professionals from other disciplines.

3. Demonstrated written and oral communication skills and the ability to adapt messages to a diverse audience that includes habitat managers, conservation administrators, academia, and the general public.

4. Skill in the development of population/habitat relationship models and the application of model-based approaches to assessing, predicting, or monitoring the ability of landscapes to support/sustain wildlife populations.

5. Demonstrated knowledge of field techniques and procedures in monitoring and assessing avian population status and habitat conditions, and knowledge of the natural history of the birds of the Appalachian Mountains.

6. Demonstrated ability in organizing and conducting research projects and studies that lead to peer-reviewed results and publications.

7. Demonstrated knowledge of Geographic Information Systems and statistical software and their role, utility, and application in characterizing, analyzing, and assessing ecological processes, systems, and conditions.

8. Skill in developing grant proposals to support biological research and assessment.

9. Willingness to travel frequently throughout the Appalachians and United States, and occasionally internationally.

Application Instructions:
Please send (email preferred) a cover letter and resume by December 7, 2012 to:
Merrie S. Morrison
Vice President for Operations
American Bird Conservancy
PO Box 249
The Plains, VA 20198
Posted by Matt Cimitile: November 06, 2012

USFWS Seeks Proposals from States for Annual Endangered Species Grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking proposals from states and U.S. territories interested in obtaining federal financial assistance to acquire land or conduct planning efforts for endangered species conservation.

The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF) is authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and provides grants to states and territories to support participation in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for species on the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, as well as for candidate species. For fiscal year (FY) 2013, the President’s budget request for the annual Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund includes $60 million in grant funding for conservation activities benefitting federally protected species.

“These conservation grants are among the Service’s most important tools for building strong partnerships for the conservation of threatened and endangered species,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Local involvement is the cornerstone of conservation success and these grants allow states and territories to protect vital habitat lands and work with local communities and private landowners to conserve listed species for generations to come.”

The Service is seeking proposals under the following three CESCF categories:

Recovery Land Acquisition Grants: These grants provide funds for the acquisition of threatened and endangered species habitat in support of approved and draft species recovery plans. Acquiring habitat in order to secure long-term protection is often the critical element in a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species. Last year, the State of Hawaii was awarded a grant of $1.2 million to acquire 3,128 acres of sensitive coastal habitat, including more than a mile of coastline, on the southern coast of the island of Hawaii. These beaches are important habitat for hawksbill turtles, green turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. The property is adjacent to the largest natural area reserve in the state and will provide landscape-level protection of the area’s unique ecosystems and habitats.

Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants: These grants provide funds to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). The purpose of an HCP is to ensure adequate protection of suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species, while at the same time providing for economic growth and development. Last year, the State of Florida was awarded a grant of $300,250 to initiate the planning of a county-wide HCP for scrub habitats in Highlands County to benefit the Florida scrub-jay, eastern indigo snake and other dry scrub species. Implementation of an HCP in Highlands County marks a significant step forward for scrub conservation in the heart of Florida’s central ridge, and enhances similar efforts made in neighboring counties.

HCP Land Acquisition Grants: These grants provide funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for threatened and endangered species to complement conservation strategies of approved HCPs. Last year, the State of Washington received $3.7 million to protect 4,160 acres in southern Asotin County, including four miles of critical bull trout habitat along the Lower Grande Ronde River and three miles of riparian habitat along Cougar Creek. This project complements a larger, landscape-level conservation effort that will protect over 15 miles of streams and 13,000 acres of habitat that support federally listed gray wolf, bull trout, and steelhead as well as multiple unlisted species.

By law, the state or territory must have a current cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and contribute at least 25 percent of the total project costs, or ten percent when two or more states or territories undertake a joint project. Proposals must be submitted to the appropriate Service regional offices by January 14, 2013.

For more information about these grants and the application requirements contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Consultation, HCPs, Recovery, and State Grants, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203, 703-358-2171. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund is identified in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance as number 15.615.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the grants, visit the Endangered Species Program online at: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/grants/index.html

This press release was produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Posted by Matt Cimitile: October 31, 2012

Lock Haven, Nature Conservancy Protect 5,200 Acres in Conservation Effort

Lock Haven City Authority, as a partner in The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands Program, agrees to forever protect and sustainably manage its forest and freshwater resources.  

Located at the confluence of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Creek, the City of Lock Haven was founded in 1833 and prospered from the rich forests and other natural resources in the area. Today, cool and clear streams, expansive forests, abundant wildlife, and outdoor recreation opportunities still surround the City. By joining The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands Program, The Lock Haven City Authority will ensure that these healthy forests and waters endure for future generations.

Acting on the recommendation of Lock Haven City Council, the Lock Haven City Authority agreed to join the Working Woodlands Program, which provides forest landowners with access to forest certification and revenue from carbon markets in exchange for a commitment to practice sustainable forestry. The agreement, approved by The Lock Haven City Authority, will protect 5,200 acres of forest in the watershed that provides drinking water to Lock Haven and surrounding municipalities.

The Authority’s lands, located in Pennsylvania’s ridge and valley landscape in the Central Appalachian Mountains, contain numerous native brook trout streams, valley and ridgetop forests, and a stand of old growth hemlock and mixed hardwood forest. At 5,200 acres, the agreement conserves a large swath of contiguous forest.

Building on The Nature Conservancy’s experience with land conservation and forest certification, Working Woodlands uses an innovative combination of working forest conservation easements, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management certification, and forest carbon payments to make conservation more attractive and relevant for landowners. To help develop and market the carbon credits, the Conservancy works with Blue Source, North America’s largest and most experienced developer of carbon offset projects.

The program is designed to eliminate landowners’ up-front costs associated with forest certification and help landowners benefit from the market demand for FSC-certified forest products and carbon offsets. Companies around the world purchase these carbon credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Conservancy will obtain FSC certification for the Lock Haven City Authority property and Blue Source will provide financing for carbon credit development.

“Our primary mission is to supply the highest quality drinking water to the customers of the Lock Haven and Suburban Water Systems. Preserving the pristine quality of our watershed properties supports this mission. Also, the Working Woodlands Program enhances our ability to sustainably manage our forests and infrastructure, while offering a new revenue source,” said June Houser, Board Chair of the Lock Haven City Authority.

“Conserving this forestland is integral to enhancing the area’s water quality, protecting wildlife habitat, maintaining and enhancing local recreation opportunities, and improving migratory corridors for animals like black bear, bobcat, and fisher,” said Josh Parrish, Director of Land Conservation for the Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “Working Woodlands provides a sustainable blueprint for uses of the land such as forestry and outdoor recreation, while ensuring that these forests will remain intact and healthy for future generations to enjoy,” Parrish added.

“Lock Haven City Authority’s participation in the Working Woodlands program will result in improved environmental stewardship of this property and will serve as yet another example of the Nature Conservancy and Blue Source providing the expertise and financing to deliver FSC certification and carbon revenues to interested landowners,” Blue Source President, Roger Williams said. “Carbon market pricing is on the rise and we are thrilled to develop and sell the credits from this project on behalf of Lock Haven City Authority and support its commitment to the environment.”

“There are many forest carbon offsets in existence, but the Working Woodlands model is very credible because it is tied to FSC certification,” said Luke Dillinger, wood procurement forester at Domtar’s Johnsonburg paper mill, an FSC-certified facility and a major market participant for Pennsylvania forest products. “The program offers a unique, market-based mechanism to allow forest landowners to manage for the long-term health of the forest while maximizing the sustainable revenue stream off of their properties,” he said.

“Working forests are a keystone of The Nature Conservancy's conservation efforts, here in Pennsylvania and around the world,” said Bill Kunze, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “Harnessing the power of markets in service to the long-term ecological and economic health of our forests can yield great benefits for both people and nature.”

This press release was produced by The Nature Conservancy.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: October 31, 2012

Conservation Assessment of American Birds Show More Than a Third Need Help

The Worm-eating Warbler is one of many species that are of conservation concern and a high priority species for the AMJV. Credit: Bill Hubick

A new study on the conservation status of American birds completed by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is the first-ever published to include the full range of bird diversity in all 50 U.S. states and dependent territories. The study finds that more than one third of these birds are in need of conservation attention. More details, including a complete bird list with conservation rankings, can be found at abcbirds.org/checklist.

While the conservation status of bird species has been widely researched in the past, the new study is the first national assessment to also rank the status of subspecies: regional forms of species that differ in appearance, and sometimes in habitat choice and migration patterns.

“By looking beyond the species we can better gauge the conservation status of the total diversity of birds in the United States,” said the study’s principal author and American Bird Conservancy Vice President, Mike Parr. “There are more than twice as many subspecies recognized as there are full species, so these data provide a more complete picture than we have ever had previously. In addition, birds that are today classed as subspecies may tomorrow be re-classified as full species when more information comes to light. This study will help make sure we don’t miss these birds as we move forward with conservation programs. While the good news is that most of the highest scoring (most “At-Risk”) birds are already protected by the Endangered Species Act, there are definitely some surprises in here too," Parr said.

“ABC’s Conservation Ranking of bird subspecies is a major contribution to our understanding of bird conservation priorities. This assessment elevates these taxa to genuine elements of biodiversity that deserve more attention, and reinforces the fact that we have bird conservation work to do essentially anywhere you look in the United States” said Terry Rich, National Coordinator for Partners in Flight (PIF), a cooperative effort concerned with conserving bird populations in the Western Hemisphere.

Some examples of birds that are of particular concern are subspecies such as the eastern Bewick’s Wren, the California population of the Black Rail, the eastern Painted Bunting, and the Gulf Coast population of the Snowy Plover; and full species such as the Bicknell’s Thrush, Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. These are also birds that exemplify the range of threats that birds face today, ranging from habitat loss to climate change.

Half of the birds of greatest concern are restricted to Hawai‘i, yet endangered Hawaiian species such as the Palila and Maui Parrotbill tend to receive significantly less recovery funding than their mainland counterparts. "Having a high score on this list is a red flag," Parr added. "We need to pay attention to these birds. If you have high cholesterol, it doesn’t mean you have heart disease, but you do want to do something about it. The same principle applies to many birds on this list.”

"By focusing new conservation attention on distinctive bird populations adapted to local habitats, this new analysis adds significantly to our species-centric view of conservation priorities," said Ken Rosenberg of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Chair of Partners in Flight's International Science Committee. "Our hope is that more regional and local groups will become engaged in helping to keep these birds from slipping through the conservation cracks."

The scoring system used by the study employs a standard methodology developed by bird scientists working through PIF, and adopts PIF scores for full species. These scores provide a total “vulnerability rank” for each bird based on a range of factors from population size to threats. Based on these scores, ABC also ranked subspecies, and then placed each bird into one of four status categories: Secure (), Potential Concern (), Vulnerable (), or At-Risk ().

“Without the significant body of work already conducted by Partners in Flight and the many independent scientists and volunteers who have contributed the core data on species, the current study would not have been possible,” Parr added.

In total, of the 1,826 birds that were assessed, 273 species or subspecies (or 15%) were regarded as Secure . Some of these are birds (e.g., the familiar American Robin) that have been able to adapt well to habitat changes caused by humans, while more specialized species, for example, the Wood Thrush and Grasshopper Sparrow, have been unable to adapt to many of these changes. A further 850 birds (46%) were considered to be of Potential Concern , meaning that they are also currently safe, but may need more careful monitoring than those in the Secure category. The remaining birds were categorized as Vulnerable  (547 birds – 30%), and At-Risk  (156 birds – 9%).

“Many of the species and subspecies that are of greatest concern are specialists – restricted to certain food sources or particular natural habitats,” said American Bird Conservancy President George Fenwick. “We are urging the bird conservation community to take a closer look at the Vulnerable and At-Risk species and subspecies in particular. Many of these are below the radar for conservation right now,” he added. “Of course this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to keep common birds common as well. As conservationists, our goal should be to maintain both the abundance and the diversity of birds. Both common and rare species are sustaining significant and unnecessary losses due to habitat change and avoidable mortality caused, for example, by collisions, pesticides, and cat predation.”

In addition to addressing the status of species and subspecies, the study has also created a list of birds that are differentiated because of the habitats to which they are restricted. These “habitypes” are typically birds that are otherwise identical to related populations, but use different ecosystems for nesting or foraging. For example, the Swainson’s Warbler has one population that nests in Appalachian rhododendron forests and another that nests in bottomland swamps; and the Marbled Murrelet has one population that nests in trees in Pacific old-growth forests and one that nests on the ground.

“While this assessment is the most complete we have, it should be considered a starting point, not an endpoint,” said David Pashley, ABC’s Vice President of U.S. Conservation Partnerships. “We hope it will begin a conversation that will lead to an optimal system of both setting and acting on bird conservation priorities for all birds."

“The new study also provides a baseline or “scorecard” against which future changes in bird populations and threats can be assessed,” added Parr. “The total of all the conservation assessment scores for the 1,826 taxa amounts to 21,662. When we reassess bird conservation status in the future, we will be able to see how this total number differs, providing a measure of comparison to this 2012 assessment."

This press release was produced by the American Bird Conservancy
Posted by Matt Cimitile: October 31, 2012

AMJV Partner Receives Interior’s “Conservation” Award

The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) was a recipient of the 2012 “Partners in Conservation” Award presented by the Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on October 18, 2012.  The award recognized 17 organizations that have achieved exemplary conservation results through public-private cooperation and community engagements.

“The Partners in Conservation Awards offer wonderful examples of how America’s greatest conservation legacies are created when communities from a wide range of backgrounds work together,” said Hayes. “These awards recognize dedicated citizens from across our nation who collaborate to conserve and restore America’s Great Outdoors, to encourage youth involvement in conservation and to forge solutions to complex natural resource challenges.”

ARRI is a coalition drawing from citizens, the coal industry, and government dedicated to restoring forests on coal-mined lands in the Eastern United States.  Restoration of habitat on these degraded lands provides essential breeding and foraging grounds for AMJV priority bird species and other wildlife.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement established ARRI in order to plant more hardwood trees on previously mined lands in Appalachia and expedite the establishment of forest habitat through natural succession. Since then, the initiative has had direct, positive, and measurable impacts on the environment.  More than 1,000 individuals representing 207 diverse organizations contribute to the initiative's goals and surface mining stakeholders have planted approximately 78 million trees on nearly 115,00 acres of mined land throughout Appalachia. 

The “Partners in Conservation” annual award ceremony is an opportunity for the Interior Department to recognize conservation achievements that include collaborative activity among a diverse range of entities, including federal, state, local and tribal governments, and individuals.

Portions of this press release were produced by the Department of the Interior.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: October 22, 2012

AMJV Chairman Receives Southeast’s Most Prestigious Conservation Award

David Whitehurst, Chairman of the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) and Director of the Bureau of Wildlife Resources at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), received the Clarence W. Watson Award for his tremendous, sustained service to resource conservation. This is the most prestigious conservation honor given in the southeastern U.S. and recognizes the individual who has made the greatest contribution to wildlife or fish conservation. It was presented at the 66th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies held in Hot Springs, Arkansas from Oct. 7-10, 2012.

Whitehurst has 40 years of experience as a fish and wildlife biologist, spending the last 38 years in the Commonwealth of Virginia. During this time, he was instrumental in bringing science-based management to the Commonwealth’s fisheries and wildlife conservation programs. In his four decades in resource conservation Whitehurst has conducted groundbreaking research on striped bass, directed the nationally lauded effort that was the first in the U.S. to successfully remove invasive zebra mussels from a state, developed the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail that provides wildlife viewing opportunities while bringing in millions in tourism dollars, helped to establish the Virginia Master Naturalist program, and has been instrumental in many other significant conservation initiatives.

Whitehurst began his career as a district fisheries biologist.  He has since served numerous roles for the Commonwealth’s conservation programs including Director of Planning, Policy, and Public Relations and Director of the Wildlife Diversity Division. Along with his current duties at DGIF and the AMJV, Whitehurst also serves as the Chair of the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee, a science and management partnership working to protect natural lands, valued resources, and biological diversity across the region. 

The Clarence W. Watson Award is presented jointly by the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society, the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society, and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It is named in honor of C. W. Watson, a former Federal Aid Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Watson was influential in implementing the Pittman-Robertson Act that provids federal aid for wildlife restoration activities conducty by state agencies and the Dingell-Johnson Act that provides federal aid to states for sport fisheries restoration.

Posted by Matt Cimitile: October 18, 2012

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