GAYLORD - A Northeast Michigan conservation organization working to build a support network for the Kirtland's warbler received a $171,000 grant to continue its work.
Huron Pines recently received the money from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Kirtland's Warbler Coordinator Abigail Ertel said. The organization will use the grant to build relationships between federal, state, regional and private partners to support the bird when it's removed from the Endangered Species List. Once down to a few hundred birds, the species has made an enormous comeback with the help of habitat management projects.
The species' resurgence is a result of partnerships between numerous organizations, from governmental to nonprofit to educational, Ertel said. Huron Pines is working to build more partnerships to ensure the species numbers don't collapse after it's delisted. Finding sources of funding so the Michigan Department of Natural Resources can continue habitat management and working with private landowners is one part of the strategy.
"There's a lot of management that happens for the Kirtland's warbler, but that encompasses all the wildlife and plant species that exist in the forest," she said. "When you think about wild turkey, bear, snowshoe hare, things like that, lots of options are available to private landowners that help wildlife as a whole."
Huron Pines is also working with the Michigan Audubon Society to develop an outreach strategy, Ertel said. The nonprofit can teach the public about the young jack pine stands where Kirtland's warblers nest, and about the birds themselves.
To continue its work, Huron Pines is also putting together the Kirtland's Warbler Alliance, the coordinating entity that will eventually take over partnership building efforts, Ertel said. She's recruited 11 members so far, and hopes to have 15 within a few weeks. They'll be at an economic round table set for Sept. 30.
"We're inviting members from the conservation community and the economic development community to talk about these unique natural assets we have in Northeast Michigan," she said. "We'll talk about how we can work better to promote those."
Huron Pines' $171,000 grant is only part of the picture, Ertel said. The organization has made a considerable initial investment of staff time, materials, equipment and other resources. The DNR has also committed $130,000 in the value of trees, planting and other work, and Michigan Audubon Society will contribute $5,500, along with staff time and travel.
Delisting a species is the ultimate goal of adding it to the Endangered Species List, Ertel said. As Kirtland's warbler numbers soared, most of which nest in Michigan, the conservation community as a whole started talking about how to go about removing them from the list while ensuring the species' survival.
"It's going to take a lot of people and a lot of help from everyone," she said. "We're looking for people to learn more about the Kirtland's warbler story and the Kirtland's Warbler Initiative."
More information on both can be found online: www.huronpines.org