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In this edition of the AMJV Newsletter, you'll find updates from AMJV staff as well as information about funding sources and upcoming meetings!


AMJV Spring 2022 Newsletter
 


AMJV Updates 

New Communications Tab

Recent Newsletters, Partner Spotlights, Technical Committee Digests, and Year in Review reports can now be found under the new Communications main menu tab on https://amjv.org/.
 

Road to Recovery

AMJV Coordinator, Todd Fearer, has been serving as a team member for the ongoing Road to Recovery (R2R) effort, described on the Marra Lab website as follows: 

“In recognition of population declines in over 50% of North American bird species and a net loss of 3 billion individuals, we are discussing and convening a group of scientists, wildlife managers, and conservation practitioners to develop an approach for identifying the specific causes of declines across the species of highest concern and the key conservation science knowledge necessary for recovering bird populations. Although general threats to birds are well known (e.g., habitat loss, anthropogenic causes of mortality), we still cannot point to the specific limiting factors or causes of declines for most bird species. These need to be assessed on a species-by-species basis, even if solutions to reverse declines are implemented more broadly across habitats, geographies, or suites of species. Understanding species- and population-specific limiting factors across the full annual cycle, including knowledge of migratory connectivity for demographically distinct populations, will allow us to efficiently target and implement limited conservation resources to the highest-priority places.”

Links to recordings of the 3-part series of R2R workshops that took place in 2020 & 2021 can also be accessed on the lab’s website. Furthermore, results from the planning efforts thus far were synthesized into a 6-page document by Fabiola Rodriquez, a doctoral student from Tulane University, during her time serving as an R2R Fellow.


The above infographic from 3billionbirds.org depicts the drastic population decline of migratory birds (and others) since the 1970s. The R2R Team is working to develop an approach that will help identify specific reasons for these declines.
 

Large CSWG Proposal Submitted to Improve Motus Network in AMJV

AMJV Science Coordinator, Becky Keller, and partners worked with the NE Motus Network group to submit a competitive State Wildlife Grant (CSWG) proposal in February 2022 to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service entitled Identifying SGCN Habitat Use Across Multiple Scales Throughout the Eastern US Using Motus WTS. For this grant, partners proposed bolstering the Motus network in the southern region with 35 new receiving stations (Figure 1), maintaining the extensive existing network of towers across the NE region, hiring a Motus coordinator for the SE region, and establishing tagging projects for species such as Northern Saw-whet Owl, Canada Warbler, Swainson’s Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Rusty Blackbirds, Golden-winged Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Gray Bats and Bog Turtle. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (lead state), North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commission, and 13 non-governmental agencies worked collaboratively to develop this proposal. Much of the proposed work would occur in the AMJV region. We thank everyone who participated in the AMJV Motus Team calls over the past year and send out a special thanks to everyone who contributed to the proposal. If funded, this work will align well with the Full Annual Cycle goals in the AMJV Strategic Plan.


Figure 1. Potential locations of “fences” of automated telemetry receiving stations to monitor the movement of focal species, other SGCN, and other migratory animals wearing digitally-coded transmitters as described in the 2022 Eastern Motus CSWG proposal.
 

Invitation to Join the Full Annual Cycle Team 

Please consider joining the Full Annual Cycle Team as we strategically plan how to best address the needs of our priority bird species in the coming years. We will be identifying some key science and conservation projects for the AMJV partnership to focus on throughout the annual cycle, including during migration and on the wintering grounds. Please join our monthly calls and help us with this important effort. Contact Becky Keller for more details.


The Tennessee River Gorge Trust is just one AMJV partner working on Full Annual Cycle projects. In the image above, Rick Huffines, TRGT, and Vivian Lozano, La Paz Chattanooga, are talking with elementary school students in Guatemala about bird migration. Photo by Eliot Berz. Photo originally appeared in the AMJV Partner Spotlight: TRGT.
 

Focus on Focal Landscapes: Virginia Highlands

“The terrain is very steep and rugged, which is both challenging for fieldwork and absolutely beautiful,” Dr. Emily Cohen (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory) says of her experience working in the Blue Ridge Highlands of Virginia. Dr. Cohen and her students are leading a bird monitoring program in this rugged region to track long-term population trends and monitor bird response to forest management activities. Last summer, Dr. Cohen, her students, and partners from The Nature Conservancy and the USDA Forest Service conducted 198 bird surveys and installed 128 autonomous recording units on public and private lands in Rockbridge and Bath counties. Autonomous recording units, or ARUs, are devices that are installed at a survey point and set to automatically capture audio recordings for a period of time each day until researchers return to pick them up. ARUs allow researchers to capture many more hours of bird song than would be possible with an in-person survey by a technician. This additional data could lead to a more complete picture of the species present in an area.


Claire Neems, one of Dr. Cohen's graduate students at UMCES Appalachian Laboratory, conducts an in-person bird survey near a newly deployed autonomous recording unit (ARU) in the Blue Ridge Highlands of Virginia. Photo by Dr. Emily Cohen.

Dr. Cohen’s work is part of a broader collaboration among conservation partners in the region led by the AMJV as part of the Focal Landscape Initiative. The goal of the AMJV’s Focal Landscape Initiative is to strategically target our capacity and resources to high-priority regions established by our partners. In March 2019, AMJV started the process of designating a focal landscape in Virginia to help direct and concentrate our work in the state. Local stakeholders in our network of state and federal agency and non-profit partners identified the Blue Ridge Highlands in the western part of the state as the region with the highest potential for establishing a focal landscape in Virginia. Criteria that were considered in selecting this area were the importance of the region for priority birds and other wildlife, active partner organizations already working on conservation in the region, a varied landscape of public and privately owned land, and the vast extent of intact, high-quality forest. AMJV also facilitated the stakeholder group through the process of identifying shared priority habitats and species for the region. In all, the group identified three target habitat types (open habitats, forests, and aquatic habitat) and 37 associated priority species.

Most of the focal landscape is part of the Ridge and Valley province, with flat valleys of farmland and forested ridges, while the rugged eastern portion of the focal landscape has high elevations and steep slopes. This diverse region of the state offers a variety of habitats, including spruce-fir forests, mixed hardwood and conifer forests, old fields, cave and karst systems, wetlands, and warmwater and coldwater streams and riparian habitats. The Virginia Natural Heritage Program reports that the focal landscape area has a high density of conservation sites, which are key areas of the landscape worthy of protection and stewardship because of the rare plants and animals, significant natural communities, and geological features they support. Of the 121 Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Virginia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, at least 97 are dependent upon habitats provided within the focal landscape.

AMJV’s work in the focal landscape received a crucial boost in 2020 when a proposal to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was selected for funding under the Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program. The three-year project focuses on building a coalition of local partners and landowners to improve habitat for Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and Wood Thrush. In addition to funding our bird monitoring work, the grant also provides funds for forest management and implementation as well as improved management guidance materials.

In collaboration with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, comprehensive forest management plans have been completed for more than 4,000 acres of private land and are underway for another 6,000 acres of public land. Forest management plans provide a detailed inventory of the structure and diversity of the forest and offer a schedule of suggested management activities to improve forest health and wildlife habitat quality while supporting the landowner or public land manager’s goals for the forest.


An early morning view of an oak forest in the Virginia Highlands Focal Landscape. Photo by Dr. Emily Cohen, UMCES. 

AMJV is also producing a management guide and training workshop for forestry professionals on enhancing wildlife habitat in the focal landscape. The guide includes a prioritization model which identifies approximately 500,000 acres of forest within the focal landscape where management or protection could be most effective for the focal landscape priority species. In addition to landscape-level guidance, the guide includes a comprehensive set of stand-level management recommendations for priority species based on the best available science and expert opinion. The guide uses an integrated approach that compiles management guidance for all species into a comprehensive set of recommendations. This allows forest managers to plan management activities to improve habitat for a suite of priority species rather than having to select a single target species for the management. This fall, AMJV and Virginia Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) will host a training workshop aimed at public and private sector foresters on incorporating recommendations from the guide into their forest management plans and habitat management projects.

While we’re starting on-the-ground management in some parts of the focal landscape, the hard work of coalition-building and collaborative planning continues at the same time. To establish a strong shared framework for all work within the focal landscape, AMJV is in the process of developing a long-term work plan for the Virginia Highlands which will include acreage goals and desired conditions for priority habitat types as well as the approaches that will be used to achieve them. Also, later this year, AMJV and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia will facilitate a meeting for stakeholders in the portion of the focal landscape surrounding Gathright Wildlife Management Area. The goal of the meeting is to evaluate planning needs and identify opportunities for forest management in the area, which is a stronghold for Cerulean Warblers.

The Focal Landscape Initiative has fundamentally reshaped the work of the AMJV in Virginia and across our geography - increasing the focus and effectiveness of our actions while broadening the types and depth of our partnerships. The initial success of this Initiative demonstrates the strength of a partnership-based approach for landscape-scale conservation as the foundation for our continued work in the Virginia Highlands.



Funding Opportunities

 
The Network for Landscape Conservation: Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund
 
The Network for Landscape Conservation is accepting proposals for the 2022 funding round of the Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund. Read the Request for Proposals (clicking on link will begin Word document download). The purpose of the Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund is to accelerate the pace and practice of landscape conservation across the United States. The Fund makes strategic investments in strengthening the collaborative infrastructure and coordination capacity of place-based, community-grounded Landscape Conservation Partnerships.
 
Through generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Catalyst Fund will distribute approximately $335,000 this year through competitive grants to Landscape Conservation Partnerships that stand at pivotal points in their development. Funded Partnerships will also be invited to participate in a two-year peer learning program. 

A portion of the Catalyst Fund is dedicated to supporting Indigenous leadership in landscape conservation. Partnerships that are led by Indigenous peoples, organizations, and communities are especially invited to apply. 

Proposals are due on Friday, April 22. Interested applicants should review the RFP (clicking on link will begin Word document download) and the Applicant Guidance Document (clicking on link will begin Word document download) to best understand how to submit a strong proposal. These FAQs may also be helpful in clarifying any questions. Additional information and a link to the application portal can be found on the Catalyst Fund page of the Network's website.

 

Save the Date: Upcoming Meetings, Workshops, and Webinars

 
The 2022 Pathways: Human Dimensions of Wildlife Conference Life Without Salmon? will be held May 1 - 4, 2022 at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton, Washington. Registration is open now.

The AMJV Management Board will meet virtually May 11 - 12, 2022.

Please hold May 24 - 26, 2022 for the Southern Blue Ridge FLN – Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists Workshop, which will be held this year in Dillard, Georgia. The environment related to Covid-19 and general comfort level of membership will determine whether or not the meeting will be in-person, revert back to virtual format, or be developed as a hybrid model. Regardless, it will be packed with tons of good applied research, new initiatives, and exciting new possibilities for scaling up our fire management capacity. More details and registration coming soon.

The 2022 SFI/PLT Annual Conference will be held in Madison, WI, June 14 - 17, 2022 at the Madison Concourse Hotel. Registration is available now.

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) and BirdsCaribbean will host a joint in-person meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 27 - July 2, 2022. This meeting will be an in-person meeting. Note the inexpensive workshops available, including an Introduction to Motus WTS ($10) as well as Troubleshooting Motus WTS stations ($10). There will also be a roundtable discussion about the draft strategic plan for Motus Wildlife Tracking System, and many other engaging topics. Registration will open soon!

The PIF Science Meeting (virtual) will be held July 12 - 14, 2022. Contact Becky Keller for more information.
 

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