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Report Shows Public Lands and Waters Crucial to Birds; One Out of Four Birds Species on Public Land

wood_duck.jpgSecretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman recently released the 2011 State of the Birds Report, the nation’s first assessment of birds on lands and waters owned by the citizens of the United States. The findings indicate tremendous potential for bird conservation: these publicly owned habitats support at least half of the entire U.S. distributions of more than 300 bird species.

The report concludes that America’s public lands and waters, ranging from national wildlife refuges to national parks to national forests, offer significant opportunities to halt or reverse the decline of many species. More than 1,000 bird species inhabit the U.S., 251 of which are federally threatened, endangered, or of conservation concern. The report provides a scientific tool to help public agencies identify the most significant conservation opportunities in each habitat.

“The State of the Birds report is a measurable indicator of how well we are fulfilling our shared role as stewards of our nation’s public lands and waters,” Salazar said. “Although we have made enormous progress in conserving habitat on public lands, we clearly have much more work to do. The good news is that because birds so extensively use public lands and waters as habitat, effective management and conservation efforts can make a significant difference in whether these species recover or slide towards extinction.”

"The 2011 State of the Birds report reflects significant achievement by public agencies and all of our long-standing partners in improving bird habitats,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman. “The USDA programs are innovative and creative. Over the last two years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has played a critical role in working cooperatively with landowners to conserve migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico, sage grouse in the Great Plains, and others. The Forest Service has developed a draft Forest Planning rule that will ensure our National Forests support birds and other wildlife for decades to come.”

The report assessed the distribution of birds on nearly 850 million acres of public land and 3.5 million square miles of ocean. It relied on high-performance computing techniques to generate detailed bird distribution maps based on citizen-science data reported to eBird and information from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Protected Areas Database of the United States.

The report highlighted the wide variety of bird habitats on public lands. These include:

Aridlands: More than half of U.S. aridlands are publicly owned. Thirty-nine percent of aridland bird species are of conservation concern and more than 75 percent of species are declining.

Oceans and Coasts: All U.S. marine waters are publicly owned and are home to 86 ocean bird species and 173 coastal species. At least 39 percent of U.S. bird species restricted to ocean habitats are declining and almost half are of conservation concern, indicating severe stress in these ecosystems.

Forests: Public lands include some of the largest unfragmented blocks of forest, which are crucial for the long-term health of many bird species, including the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, which has 97 percent of its U.S. distribution on public lands.

Arctic and Alpine: Ninety percent of boreal forest, alpine, and arctic breeding bird species in Alaska rely on public lands for habitat, including 34 breeding shorebird species of high conservation concern. There are more public lands in Alaska than in the rest of the U.S. combined, offering huge potential to manage lands for conservation.

Islands: More birds are in danger of extinction in Hawaii than anywhere else in the U.S. Public lands in Hawaii support 73 percent of the distribution of declining forest birds. Among declining Hawaiian forest birds on Kauai, about 78 percent rely on state land. Four endangered species in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are entirely dependent on federal lands.

Wetlands: Wetlands protection has provided the “gold standard” for bird conservation. On the whole, 39 species of hunted waterfowl have increased by more than 100 percent during the past 40 years as nearly 30 million acres of wetlands have been acquired and management practices have restored bird populations.

Grasslands: Grassland birds are among our nation’s fastest declining species, yet only a small amount – 13 percent -- of grassland is publicly owned and managed primarily for conservation. Forty-eight percent of grassland-breeding bird species are of conservation concern, including four with endangered populations.

The 2011 State of the Birds report is a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations. These include the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Department of Defense, the National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The full report is available at

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Homebuyers Willing to Pay More for a Green Home Now. But Why?

energy-efficient-homeAccording to McGraw-Hill Construction, the share of single-family home construction that are green has risen from 8% in 2008 to 17% in 2011. 

Clearly, the market for green homes is on the rise, but is it because individuals have started to care more about the environment?  Or is because the economy isn’t quite as bad as it was in 2007, and are individuals more willing to invest in environmental efforts once again as they did at the turn of the century?

Many homebuilders and developers are using "green" as a differentiator in marketing and sales campaigns, and eventually expect that green features will be the norm, rather than an optional feature.

The main two questions often asked are; who are these green buyers, and are these individuals more willing to pay more for a green home and/or green features.

To answer these questions, we must first understand and determine who exactly are this new "green buyers" that have emerged in recent years. Are these individuals who are interested in buying a green home to help the environment? Are these individual who have more income, and/or have landed more stable employment in recent years?

The answer may surprise you, because by and large the answer is "no".  The average green homebuyers are individuals who are willing to pay more upfront if there is a direct and quantifiable return on investment from an energy and/or water efficiency benefit, or from a health perspective. 

The results of a 2007 survey showed an overwhelming majority of owners (95%) indicated that they would be willing to pay more for a green home if it would help the environment, they would be paid back for their green investment, or they would get health benefits. However, 80% of those willing to pay more would do so only for cost savings and/or health benefits.

Clearly, for most green buyers, helping the environment was a bonus, but not a driving factor in spending additional money. The number of homebuyers who would buy a green home because it was the right thing to do or because it directly helped the environment was a rather small percentage. Focusing on cost savings and health benefits to market green homes and features, as opposed to focusing on their environmental attributes appears to be the best way for homebuilders to encourage individuals to purchase a new green home. 

In a more recent 2012 survey the results are even more surprising. The percentage of all homeowners willing to pay more for a "green home" explicitly for environmental reasons lowered from 17% in 2007, to 13% in 2012. However, the percentage of owners that would consider buying a "green home" actual rose during that same time period.

So what does that mean? It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? The average homebuyer is realizing the economical benefits of being environmentally responsible, and it is the economic benefits that are driving the green home market, and motivating the green homebuyer.  

So, homebuilders who wish to using "green" as a differentiator in their marketing and sales campaigns must realize that it’s not the “environment” per se that will drive sales for them. They must highlight what they are already doing that saves money and/or is good for buyers' health.  In selecting any green features to add to the current standard features and available options, homebuilders should focus on those that pay back any added cost in a reasonable time period.  

Keep in mind however that taking credit for helping the environment won’t hurt sales as long as it's clear that it's not going to cost the buyer additional money without any return in investment. In fact, if a homebuyer can save money and help the environment research shows that they are more willing to support those types of initiatives. 





References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles 
The International Sustainability Council 

Sustainable Demonstration Project Blog

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games

Scotland Yards Golf Club

Audubon Outdoors

Love and Dodson

Green World Parth

Turf Feeding Systems

The Dodson Group      

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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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