Eliminating Threats on Public Lands

Public lands are essential to America’s birds as well as to recreation, energy production, and many other federal government priorities. We advocate for uses of public lands that prevent unnecessary risks to birds and other wildlife.

Western Bluebirds, Tom Grey

Open Pipes: An Entrapment Risk

Open pipes, used for marking mine claims, fence posts, and a variety of other purposes across the western U.S. landscape, are a significant cause of bird mortality for Western Bluebirds and many other species. Birds enter into these pipes and are unable to escape.

We’re working with federal agencies to eliminate the problem of pipe-induced mortality by using alternative materials and retrofitting structures that trap birds. In a significant step forward, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a directive in 2016 to their field managers to look out for and address this problem where they find it.

The BLM is also reaching out to mine claim holders with a brochure endorsed by both the mining industry and ABC to alert them to this danger and to encourage the use of safe replacement markers on active claims.  ABC followed up with a letter requesting their help to eliminate open pipes.

Photo: James BO Insogna/Shutterstock

Energy Development and Bird Habitats

Public lands are witnessing an energy boom that includes oil and gas drilling, coal mining, geothermal wells, wind and solar farms, and thousands of miles of newly proposed transmission lines to move electricity from remote public lands to urban areas.

The impacts of this have been significant and for some species, such as the Greater Sage-Grouse, particularly severe. We’re working to make energy development on public lands more sustainable; for example, our work on Bird-Smart Wind Energy advises on proper siting and management of wind energy facilities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to establish a permitting system for the incidental take of over 1,000 species of migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Energy developments will be required to ensure that best management practices and effective mitigation measures are in place to minimize unintentional harm to migratory birds.

ABC is watching these developments carefully and will provide more information when available.

Bald Eagle on a deer, outdoorsman/Shutterstock

Lead Poisoning of Wild Birds

Lead is a deadly toxin that continues to be a mortality threat to birds. Despite a 1991 federal ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting, lead ammunition is still commonly used for other hunting activities and for fishing.

As a result, lead poisoning remains a problem for birds: Hundreds of tons of lead are deposited in the environment annually by upland game bird hunting; deer, elk, bear, and other mammal hunting; and fishing.

With several good alternatives to lead available on the market, we advocate that hunters switch to non-lead alternatives.

Rufous Hummingbird, Maria Jeffs/Shutterstock

Dangerous Pesticides on Public Lands

 In 2014, a coalition of wildlife conservation and food safety organizations called on federal land managers to halt the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides due to harm to pollinators. We sent letters in support of this ban to the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Forest Service.

The National Refuge System, managed by FWS, has already taken this important step for public safety and wildlife conservation. We applaud their effort and hope that others will follow suit.

Our own study, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds” shows that neonics are also deadly for birds.

Feral cat, Opachevsky Irina/Shutterstock

Cats and Other Invasive Species

Cats are the leading source of human-caused bird mortality in the U.S., and other invasive species such as feral pigs and Burmese pythons are also taking an increasingly heavy toll on birds. Unfortunately, populations of all of these invasive species, and many more, are found on our public lands.

ABC and professional societies of wildlife conservation scientists are calling on the federal government to develop a clear policy and strategy and address this problem.