Efforts to Conserve Cerulean Warbler Get Big Boost from $8 Million in Project Funding

(Washington, D.C., January 29, 2015) A five-year project targeting conservation of the imperiled and iconic Cerulean Warbler and focusing on the states of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia got a big boost following the granting of $8 million in funding from the Dept. of Agriculture's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement Project is one of 115 high impact conservation programs that recently received a total of about $370 million through the RCPP program. This particular project will be carried out as a cooperative effort by the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), which is a regional partnership supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) that involves more than a dozen different organizations.

The AMJV project will enable partner organizations to work with private landowners to enhance 12,500 acres of forest habitat on private lands for Cerulean Warblers and other wildlife. Approximately 1,000 acres of reclaimed mine lands will also be restored using American Chestnut plantings.

The project will be modeled after the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Working Lands for Wildlife Program for Golden-winged Warblers, using recently released Cerulean Warbler Habitat Management Guidelines to guide conservation practices in delineated focal areas.

"This project will create a tremendous opportunity for our partners to engage private landowners and promote the creation and conservation of contiguous areas of viable working forests to help ensure long-term protection of Cerulean Warblers," said Todd Fearer, who is the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture Coordinator from American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

"Cerulean Warblers are one of our partnership's highest priority species and approximately 75 percent of their distribution occurs on private land," Fearer said. "Sustainable forestry practices on private lands can improve habitat for this species and multiple other game and non-game species, while enhancing forest health."

Formerly one of the most abundant breeding warblers in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, numbers of the sky-blue Cerulean Warbler have declined by about 70 percent since the 1960s, with the leading cause being habitat loss. The Appalachian Mountains are a breeding stronghold for the Cerulean, an area impacted by mountaintop removal coal mining, which affects this bird's preferred habitat of mature, multi-layered deciduous forest. Habitat loss on its wintering grounds in the Andes Mountains of South America—from Peru to Colombia to Venezuela—has  been caused by conversion of land for agriculture and the conversion of habitat-rich shade coffee plantations to sun coffee devoid of large trees.

Partners contributing forest management, coordination, landowner enrollment, outreach, and other activities for this project include: American Bird Conservancy, Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative/Green Forests Work, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Research Institute, KY Department of Agriculture State Apiarist, KY Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Resources, MD Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, National Wild Turkey Federation, Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement, OH Division of Forestry, PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, PA Game Commission, The American Chestnut Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Kentucky, WV Division of Natural Resources, WV Division of Forestry, West Virginia University.