"Our new website makes it easy for people to get out and enjoy the incredible variety and beauty of birds on the Mississippi," said Bruce Reid of Audubon's Mississippi River program. "The Great River Birding Trail is more than a terrific resource for birders, it can help people everywhere discover the importance of the Mississippi River ecosystem and the need to keep it healthy."
Audubon is leading an aggressive ten-state initiative to address the multiple conservation challenges facing the Mississippi. Problems include loss of wildlife habitat, declining bird populations, and water quality degradation.
Public involvement and concern is making a difference. Program successes already include completion of a $1 million marsh restoration project at Audubon's Rainey Sanctuary in southwestern Louisiana. A Mecca for birdlife, the sanctuary is Audubon's oldest and one of its most ecologically significant. Improvements were made with essential help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. A written agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to promote sound management of lands and waters along the entire river has been completed and collaborative projects are beginning. Audubon has begun conservation work within focal watersheds covering more than 2 million acres along the river and launched a targeted Gulf Coast conservation initiative.
"Birders and others who visit our new website and ultimately travel the trail will be showing their support for America's River, and that's the kind of support our partners and all Americans who cherish the Mississippi need to see," added Reid.
"The Great River Birding Trail is a good overview and guide to areas that the Mississippi River firmly anchors, featuring selected sites along the greatest flyway in North America," said Jeff Wilson of Bartlett, Tennessee, one of the most experienced birders along the Mississippi River. "The website highlights some birding locations little known or greatly under utilized by the general public. Interested birders and wildlife enthusiasts will find it a quick and useful guide to new outdoor adventures."
The Great River Birding Trail was born in 2000, when Audubon began mapping birding sites from the Mississippi River's headwaters in northern Minnesota to the river's mouth at the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Currently, website visitors can view birding locations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of Louisiana. Work is underway to add additional sites up and down the river. Mitsui & Co., Ltd. is primary sponsor of the project, with additional support from Arkansas Delta Byways, Entergy Mississippi, the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, Mississippi State University, the Mississippi Division of Tourism, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
"Every partner on this project can be proud of the hope it offers for the Mississippi, after all, its conservation and protection are critical for our entire nation," said Roger Still, Audubon's vice president for Mississippi River Programs. "Together, we can preserve America's River for future generations to enjoy. Through outreach projects like the Great River Birding Trail website, Audubon is inspiring environmental stewardship of the river and its floodplain, and the wildlife that depends on them."
To view the Great River Birding Trail website, go to http://www.greatriverbirding.org/.