Bitterroot River Important Bird Area: A Bird’s Perspective
Imagine what a bird sees when flying over the Bitterroot River – lots of cottonwoods and pines, perfect for drilling for food or making nests; fish in small pools often created by beavers; dense bushes for cover; berries and other kinds of food, including mice and voles; and of course water. All of the above make for a perfect habitat for living, nesting, resting, foraging, and being safe. These and other factors led to the Bitterroot River’s being designated in 2006 as one of the nation’s “IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS” (IBAs), a program begun by National Audubon in 1995 resulting in over 2,000 IBAs nationwide and 42 in Montana.
Therefore, it came as a shock to Sherry Ritter, longtime Bitterroot Audubon member and wildlife ecologist, when this April 2008 Missoulian headline caught her attention: "Conservation Easement Fails to Save Copse of Cottonwoods." A landowner in Lolo had cut down 15 acres of cottonwood trees on an area that had a conservation easement with Missoula County. The landowner was quoted as saying he didn’t know there was a conservation easement, but even worse, from Sherry’s standpoint, was this, “I basically wanted to clean up my land, get all these trees and brush out of there and put in some good trees," noting that he'd wanted to plant maple trees. Within a month, Sherry had set up the Important Bird Areas Committee within Bitterroot Audubon to work on increasing landowner awareness of the value of riparian habitat to birds. The committee focuses on one of two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Ravalli County—the Bitterroot River IBA. This IBA covers more than 30,000 acres within the 500- year floodplain that runs 30 miles along the river from Woodside Crossing to just south of Lolo. On April 18th at 7:00 P.M., Sherry, the Chairperson of the IBA Committee, will present a program on the Bitterroot IBA, its history, original process of qualifying the Bitterroot River for this designation, and its current status. In 2016, the committee and many volunteers did surveys on public property and some private lands within the IBA and found that many of the birds originally surveyed were doing well. However, there is at least one that isn’t. Sherry will discuss what’s so great about the IBA, what the committee and others are doing to protect and enhance bird habitat, and what’s really needed to help that one species and others.
Please join Bitterroot Audubon for this important and informative program, Monday, April 18th 7:00 P.M. at the Forest Service/Natural Resources Building, 1801 North 1st (North end of Hamilton, west side of HWY 93). Enter the building on the west side. The Public is invited. Contact Becky Peters for additional information (369-5210).