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CMI Conducts Grassland Bird Survey for Maneuver Training Center-Fort Pickett, Virginia

July 5, 2011 – Managers on military installations are tasked with conducting planning level surveys that are critical for determining the potential impact of training activities on the collection of biologic communities found there.  Detailed information about the biotic resources present on an installation can assist military natural resource managers in making informed decisions to avoid potential conflicts with military training and/or critical construction projects. CMI is working with natural resource managers at Maneuver Training Center (MTC) – Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia to provide such information.

Over the past decade, MTC Fort Pickett has converted large tracts of forest into grassland through its Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) program.  Land managers at MTC-Fort Pickett need to know how species, particularly those designated as “at-risk” are using the newly created grassland habitat, and initiated a project with CMI to find out. The purpose of this project is to 1) conduct a field survey to establish baseline species diversity and abundance data for avifauna in selected parcels of existing and recently converted grassland areas; and 2) conduct surveys to specifically determine the presence of the Bachman’s sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis).


Bachman's Sparrow Bachman's Sparrow (photo by N. Banfield, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)


The Bachman’s sparrow is designated as a state threatened species in Virginia.  This species was listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act in   1994 and as a threatened species by Virginia in 1992. Bachman’s sparrow was documented on MTC - Fort Pickett over ten years ago, and Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) outlines monitoring efforts to determine population status and distribution throughout MTC Fort Pickett as a management action for this species.

Information on birds found on installations provides an indication of overall environmental conditions.  For example, a decline in bird populations may signal a decrease in the health of the surrounding environment.  By installing  permanent monitoring plots and gathering information on bird community composition over multiple years, CMI researchers can observe trends in bird communities and establish potential relationships to changing land condition resulting from military training activities.  Ultimately, this information will allow land managers at MTC-Fort Pickett to make decisions using the best information available to meet both military training and species conservation objectives.

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