Western Water News

Western Water Highlights and Wins in 2018

In 2018, we worked to protect the arid West’s greatest natural resource: WATER - for birds and people.

This year, despite another year of extraordinary drought and policy challenges, we had a tremendous year for Audubon’s Western Water work. Together, with your support, bird-watchers engaged in our first Western Rivers Bird Count and worked with conservation NGOs, government agencies, hunter/angler partners, and others in order to avoid catastrophic water shortages on the Colorado River.

Here are some examples of important work together across the arid West (and click links for more!):

In Arizona, Audubon helped protect rivers and groundwater from bad legislation, made progress toward the Drought Contingency Plan, and co-branded Audubon’s first beer named for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo while raising awareness about connections between birds and the Colorado River.  

In California, with Audubon’s leadership and wide-spread support, voters approved Prop. 68, a $4 billion water and parks bond measure that included $200 million in funding to address the deterioration of the Salton Sea. Audubon was also instrumental in restoring Owens Lake from a toxic dustbowl to an internationally recognized bird sanctuary.

In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper proposed $30 million to implement Colorado’s Water Plan and also declared 2018 the Year of the Bird in the Centennial State noting the importance of the Colorado River. Audubon Rockies and the community showed up for restoration projects, public meetings, and said no to Amendment 74 which would have had negative implications for water.  

In Nevada, the birding community celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Lahontan Valley Wetlands designation as a site of ‘hemispheric importance’ – the area provides a migration stopover for more than 100,000 shorebirds annually.

In New Mexico, Audubon joined local municipalities in water releases to recharge vital habitat along the Rio Grande. Audubon and partners released a report detailing water conservation solutions as alternatives to the proposed large-scale water diversions from the Gila River, one of the state’s last great free-flowing rivers.  

In Oregon, Audubon’s VP of Bird Conservation, Stan Senner, along with researchers at the University of Montana, Oregon State University, and the East Cascades Audubon Society, found that migratory birds and their food sources decrease when a lake’s water level is low and salinity is high. This study was covered in the Environmental Monitor.

In Utah, we opened our Saline Lakes Program office with renewed focus on Great Salt Lake – the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere that is at risk. Governor Herbert declared May the “Month of the Bird” in the Beehive State, publicized in the Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, and Fox 13 TV. ABC 4 did a follow-up piece with Ella Sorensen, the manager of Audubon’s Gillmor Sanctuary.

In Wyoming, Governor Mead proclaimed 2018 as the Year of the Bird in the Cowboy State, celebrating native and migratory birds in the Cowboy State’s remarkable landscapes and water resources that support them.

In northern Mexico along the Colorado River Delta, a new report documented that after pulse flows in 2014, bird abundance and diversity both increased. This was possible because of collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico supported by a coalition of nonprofits that now includes Audubon.

We’ll face plenty of challenges for people and birds in the arid West in 2019. And we’ll need your help, so enjoy some birding on New Year’s Day and stay in touch!

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