Western United Dairymen co-hosted a workshop with both the Madera and Tulare County Farm Bureau to discuss the Tricolored Blackbird and a new partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Audubon California to boost habitat and outreach work for the threatened bird. Although WUD leadership and members have been working on this issue for over a decade, long before the Tricolored Blackbird was listed as endangered, this progressive and collaborative project of dairy farmers working closely with conservationists is important to resolving the issue and affirming our commitment to environmental sustainability.
This project will provide $1.1 million to address factors that challenge dairy farmers and threaten Tricolored Blackbird populations, with the goal of finding a sustainable solution for management of colonies on farms and saving the species from extinction. Over the five-year project, WUD and conservation groups will work together to continue implementation and promotion of the existing NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, also known as EQIP, which provides silage buyouts to farmers who delay harvest when Tricolored Blackbirds are nesting in their fields. The project will also focus on habitat restoration and enhancement projects aimed at attracting the birds away from dairy silage fields, instead encouraging them to nest on existing or to-be-developed wetlands or private agricultural lands specifically intended to provide a habitat. Program partners will also implement an educational campaign for farmers regarding the role they play in protecting the species.
Tricolored Blackbirds historically nested in vast wetlands of the Central Valley, but as that habitat has declined, the birds have established large nesting colonies in triticale. Unfortunately, harvest season coincides with the birds’ nesting season. When these fields are harvested before young birds have fledged, thousands of eggs and nestlings can be lost.
A survey of Tricolored Blackbirds completed last year showed the birds have declined 44 percent since 2011, prompting the California Fish and Game Commission to approve an emergency listing in December under the state Endangered Species Act.
This new partnership is one of six distinct conservation projects selected in California through the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Nationally, 100 projects were selected receiving $370 million in total. The four projects that are totally within California borders will receive approximately $12 million with partners providing matching resources to implement the work.
For a link to video from the workshop held Jan. 26, <click here>.