New Conservation Strategy Comes After Years of Research

Biologist Robert J. Craig has spent the last seven years, seven days a week, carefully documenting the bird populations in various areas in Southern New England. The journey has taken him across more than 1 000 miles of land on foot and has required him to trudge across snow, wade across rivers and fight his way through forest undergrowth. However Craig argues that the resulting information is invaluable and should be used to make some very important decisions.

As Craig made his way through the woods of Connecticut and Rhode Island, he spent his days counting birds. He took note of which bird species where evident in a particular area, how many species were evident and what time of year they were most visible. In doing so he slowly developed a database of information that tells biologists and conservationists which areas see the most bird activity at any given period. Craig feels that the results of his research should have a massive impact on the wildlife conservation decisions since it pinpoints exactly which areas are the biggest bird hotspots in the country. By focusing conservation efforts on these areas, the limited amount of money and land available for conservation can be put to best use to protect birds and other wildlife.

One of the aspects of his research which has been most revealing was the discovery that coastal forests served as the region’s principal winter bird reservoir. Unfortunately this is also hot property when it comes to commercial developers and so the battle to preserve this land is a big one as long as it remains unprotected. Craig feels so strongly about protecting these forest habitats that he has even been willing to suggest abandoning efforts to protect other habitats, such as prairies or marshes, which support a lower level of more common species. However his suggestion has come under fire by most other biologists who feel that while the forests – and especially coastal forests – should be given the most attention, other habitats should not be abandoned. While Craig’s “eco-triage” concept is at odds with many other professionals in the conservation field, his research is generally viewed as being invaluable. The depth of the information is far greater than that gathered from bird watchers and researchers over the years and it certainly will prove to be a valuable asset to the conservation community in years to come.