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- Connecticut Lakes Headwaters
- Lake Umbagog
- Pontook Reservoir
- Pondicherry Basin
- White Mountains High Elevation
- Squam Lake
- Ossipee Pine Barrens
- Middle Connecticut River
- Merrimack River Floodplain
- Concord Airport Grasslands
- Pawtuckaway Highlands
- Pease Grasslands
- Great Bay
- Powwow Pond
- Hampton-Seabrook Estuary
- Isles of Shoals
- Brentwood Mitigation Area (new)
The Important Bird Area Program is an international effort to identify areas that provide critical habitat to birds at some stage of their annual cycle, be it breeding, migration, or winter. The program began in Europe in 1981 and soon spread to Africa and Asia, with the United States initiating its program in 1996. Today, IBA programs are in place in over 100 countries and 46 states, including New Hampshire. Birdlife International (www.birdlife.net) is the parent organization of the IBA Program, and serves to oversee international coordination. In the United States the IBA Program is coordinated by the National Audubon Society (www.audubon.org).
Worldwide, the IBA program has helped conserve tens of millions of acres of habitat for rare or endemic birds, spurred new monitoring efforts, and even guided conservation legislation. The program has worked because birds are a highly visible and popular group of organisms, and thus better able to elicit public interest and support for conservation efforts. In the long run, many important "bird" areas will also aid in the conservation of more than just birds — they provide habitat for many other species of plants and animals, many of which are also of conservation concern.
With this in mind, the New Hampshire IBA Program evolved as an outgrowth of the NH Living Legacy Project, which seeks to identify ecologically significant areas in the state. The NH IBA program is a partnership of the New Hampshire Audubon Society, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and UNH Cooperative Extension, with additional input from the state’s Partners in Flight working group. The latter group developed the scientific criteria that are used to identify and evaluate potential IBAs in New Hampshire.
Any area that meets one or more of the four scientific criteria (see below) can be nominated as an IBA, at which point it will be reviewed by the state IBA Technical Committee. This committee consists of representatives of the partner organizations, other members of the environmental community, and the birding community. The committee considers each nomination in light of the available data and in light of the area’s importance in the broader statewide context.
The four principle IBA criteria are summarized as follows, see below for more details:
- Areas consistently supporting significant numbers of endangered or threatened species (as identified by state and federal law).
- Areas consistently supporting bird species assemblages characteristic of representative, rare, threatened, or unique habitat types within the state. Included in this category are areas supporting significant numbers of bird species of high conservation priority in New Hampshire (as identified by state and regional conservation planning).
- Areas where birds congregate in significant numbers during the breeding season, winter, or migration.
- Areas important for long-term bird research or monitoring projects that contribute substantially to ornithology and/or bird conservation (this is treated as a supplemental criterion, in that a site cannot be an IBA based on it alone).
"Significant" in the above criteria can be defined to include at least 1% of the state population (categories 1 and 2), or actual numbers above pre-established thresholds (category 3).
If you are interested in nominating an IBA, please review the following specific criteria and fill in the nomination form.
Once an area is recognized as an IBA, the recognition can aid future conservation in a number of ways:
- Increased awareness of an area's ornithological value can galvanize land conservation efforts. Examples include ongoing acquisitions at the Pondicherry Refuge and the purchase of 500 acres of riverfront property in Canterbury, within the Merrimack River Corridor IBA.
- Whether land within an IBA is conserved or not, the data gathered to support an IBA's nomination can potentially direct future management of the area to maximize its value to rare or representative bird species. Landowners newly aware of their property's wildlife value may adopt stewardship activities that benefit the species that occur there.
- There are very few places in the state where we have comprehensive data on bird populations. Identifying an area as an IBA can increase interest in leaning more about the species that occur there. This can result in volunteer inventory and/or monitoring efforts, or even generate funding to conduct comprehensive survey work. More detailed data can in turn inform better management as mentioned above.
- Even if the designation does not lead directly to conservation, management, or research at an IBA, publicity related to an area can generate increased public interest and awareness for bird conservation. The IBA program hopes to spread the word through existing nature centers, birding trails, and other outreach avenues already existing or planned in New Hampshire.
Beyond the borders of New Hampshire, IBAs identified here will be evaluated on the continental scale using similar criteria. North American IBAs are then "advanced" to the final level for consideration as Globally Important Bird Areas. The latter are generally restricted to areas that support exceptional concentrations of migratory birds, high numbers of rare or endemic species, or particularly good representations of regional bird communities.
The Important Bird Site component of the IBA program is under development. Criteria and nomination forms are in their final drafts and should be available by the end of 2008.