Top Wins for Birds in 2020: Local Wins and Accomplishments

Audubon is local everywhere. Our chapter network and state offices were critical to protecting and restoring the places that birds need to thrive.

This year our conservation leaders, bird advocates, college students, ambassadors, volunteers, and scientists accomplished amazing things. Through early-December, more than 199,000 of us contacted decision-makers more than 783,700 times on behalf of birds. All of the accomplishments listed below come from the hard work and dedication of our members, chapters, volunteers, and staff. We're very proud of what we have been able to accomplish together over the past 12 months.

Keep reading to see the most important ways that our flock worked together this year.

Turning a Golf Course Into a Bird Haven in Nevada

Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, in partnership with Lahontan Audubon Society and AmeriCorps, are restoring vital wetland habitat in a decommissioned golf course in Reno, Nevada. Bird numbers have been declining in the Truckee Meadows valley since the 1970s, when agricultural and urban projects replaced a vast network of wetlands in the area, and drove birds like Black-Headed Grosbeak and Willow Flycatcher out. The former Rosewood Lakes Golf Course sits on one of the last vestiges of the disappearing wetlands and has been overrun by invasive plants like salt cedar and tall whitetop.

Since the project began in late 2019, the project’s team has already removed 48 acres of weeds and invasive species, planted 450 native plants, and enhanced approximately 1.85 miles of trails with interpretive signage and walkways for bird viewing, outdoor fieldtrips, and community science projects. Over the coming months, members of Lahontan Audubon will help monitor the site to evaluate how and when the birds recolonize the area.

Restoring Wetlands along the Colorado River

Grand Valley Audubon in Colorado harnessed the power of community, local, state, and national partnerships to generate the support and funding needed to enhance critical wetland habitat along the Colorado River.

Shallow water wetlands for migrating birds are in the first phase of construction and restoration on Grand Valley Audubon’s 60-acre parcel adjacent to the main stem Colorado River. This $75,000 upgrade to the Audubon Nature Preserve is four years in the making and was funded by Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado Basin Roundtable, and other funding sources.

Restoring a Critical Rookery Island in South Carolina

Bay Point Island is one of South Carolina’s last remaining undeveloped islands that threatened and endangered coastal birds rely on for habitat. Recently, there was a proposal to develop the island into an ecotourism resort, which would have negatively impacted the habitat for birds on the island, as well as likely resulted in unnecessary costs to the local government related to emergency response and water quality concerns when the island flooded during storms and ultimately with projected sea-level rise. Beyond the ecological impacts of the project, the Gullah Geechee community raised concerns about the threat it posed to significant cultural resources, including access to traditional fishing grounds and the economic displacement the project could cause.

With the help of Audubon’s advocacy—led by the Hilton Head chapter—and partner conservation organizations, the issue of Bay Point Island rose to the attention of State Senators Chip Campsen and Shannon Erikson, Congressional Representative Joe Cunningham, and Governor Henry McMaster, who also weighed in with opposition to the project. Due to the opposition, the county zoning board voted not to allow the project to move forward, providing a significant boost for South Carolina birds like the Piping Plover, Red Knot, Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover that rely on the island.

Protecting Whooping Cranes from Transmission Line Collisions

This summer critically endangered Whooping Cranes got a reprieve when the District Court of Colorado vacated the permit for the “R-Project,” a 225-mile electrical transmission line. Collisions with power lines during migration is recognized as one of the principal threats to this iconic imperiled species, and the R-Project was set to be constructed directly across the center of the Whooping Crane migratory corridor. Audubon and its partners opposed the siting of this transmission line, first filing an amicus brief against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Endangered Species Act compliance, and then filing a second amicus brief in a civil lawsuit against the project. With the incidental take permit vacated, the project cannot go forward without additional impact analyses.

Relocating a Displaced Seabird Colony in Virginia

Last fall, Virginia’s Department of Transportation paved over the nesting site on South Island to make way for the $3.8 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion project. Considered the largest road project in Virginia’s history, the expansion is expected to ease congestion along the bustling stretch of I-64 connecting Hampton and Norfolk. But for the birds—several of which are of concern in Virginia—it erased crucial nesting habitat.

After pressure from Audubon and local chapters, the State of Virginia relocated the colony nesting site. Using decoys and other social attraction methods—pioneered by Audubon’s Seabird Institute—on the island set aside for the colony, Virginia state scientists successfully lured 20,000 terns and skimmers to the new site.