Western Water News

Lahontan Wetlands Celebrates 30 Years as Internationally Important Site

Lahontan’s designation protects more than 100,000 birds annually

FALLON, Nev. – The birding community is pleased to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Lahontan Valley Wetlands designation as a site of ‘hemispheric importance’ in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network – the designation protects more than 100,000 shorebirds annually.

Today, representatives from Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Falon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Lahontan Valley Audubon Society, along with members of the public, celebrated during the Spring Wings Bird Festival with birding tours, workshops, and a ceremony at the Churchill County Fairgrounds.

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) conserves shorebird habitat through a network of key sites across the Americas. When WHSRN added 220,000 acres of Lahontan Valley Wetlands in May 1988, it was just the fourth site to join the network. Today, there are 104 sites in 17 countries covering 38 million acres. Partners at each location commit to conserving and managing sites to benefit breeding, migrating, and wintering shorebirds.

“The Lahontan Valley Wetlands are an incredibly important resource and the passion people have for them never ceases to amaze me; it's as strong today as it was 30 years ago,” said Carl Lunderstadt, deputy project leader of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The Lahontan Valley Wetlands encompass lands from Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Stillwater Wildlife Management Area, Carson Lake and Pasture, and the Lahontan Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. The wetlands are comprised mainly of marshes with a variety of ecosystems. These marshes are dependent upon water allocations from the Carson River and return flows from irrigation projects. Available water is also dependent on a good snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, the water source of the Carson River.

“Thirty years later, partners remain committed,” said Jenni Jeffers, wildlife biologist for Nevada Department of Wildlife’s western region. “We are fortunate to be a partner in this critical network for migratory birds and we will continue to provide the best possible wetland habitat in future.”

Historically, the Lahontan Valley Wetlands supported 250,000 shorebirds annually. Of these, the Long-billed Dowitcher was the most abundant species — there were single-day counts of more than 100,000. In addition to its WHSRN designation, both the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society recognize the Lahontan Valley Wetlands as an ‘Important Bird Area.’

“Long-distance migrant shorebirds are dependent on a limited number of key wetland sites along the way—think of them as links in a chain—and the Lahontan Valley Wetlands are one of those places,” said Stan Senner, Audubon vice president for bird conservation. “With care, this area and other wetlands and saline lakes in the Great Basin will maintain their value as habitat for shorebirds and other wetland species forever.”

To learn more about Audubon’s research on the Lahontan Valley Wetlands and other saline lakes in the west, read the Water and Birds in the Arid West report.

For a shorebird — a bird that typically favors aquatic and wetland environments — the Great Basin is an unforgiving stretch along their migration, but thanks to Lahontan Valley Wetlands and the people working for shorebird conservation here, they are able to find respite.

In addition to Long-billed Dowitchers, Western and Least sandpipers, American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes, and Long-billed Curlews, also rely on the Lahontan Wetlands. To learn more about the birds that depend on this important resource, visit: WHSRN Species Conservation Plans: https://www.whsrn.org/conservation-plans; and Lahontan Valley Wetlands Important Bird Area: https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/lahontan-valley-wetlands.


WHSRN’s mission is to conserve shorebirds and their habitats through a network of key sites across the Americas. Learn more at: https://www.whsrn.org/lahontan-valley-wetlands and @WHSRN

About Audubon

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety. To learn more about Audubon’s Western Water Initiative, visit: www.audubon.org/westernwater




Joey Kahn, National Audubon Society, jkahn@audubon.org

Laura Chamberlin, Manomet – WHSRN, lchamberlin@manomet.org




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