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Rainwater Basin Region Seeks Important Shorebird Designation

For Immediate Release
(January 4, 2008)

Grand Island - The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture has initiated a public comment period, January 1-April 15, 2008, regarding its application for designation as a Landscape of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)

The Joint Venture is a partnership of private organizations, government agencies, and individuals cooperating to protect and restore wetlands in south-central Nebraska's Rainwater Basin region. The Joint Venture's projects have generally been aimed at providing habitat for migrating ducks and geese. However, Joint Venture coordinator Steve Moran emphasizes that high-quality wetlands provide other benefits, including flood control, improved water quality, and groundwater recharge, as well as habitat for a variety of birds and wildlife. "Over 257 species of birds have been identified as using Rainwater Basin wetlands," he said, "including many rare and at-risk species." Of interest in the WHSRN application is habitat for the estimated 200,000 to 300,000 migrating shorebirds that pay a brief but crucial visit to the Rainwater Basin each spring. The term "shorebird" refers to any of several dozen species of generally small, long-legged, narrow-billed birds that are often seen feeding on shorelines, beaches, or mudflats. Some shorebird species that visit the Rainwater Basin -- including white-rumped sandpipers, sanderlings, and Hudsonian godwits -- migrate each year between Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, and the northernmost brink of Canada and Alaska. Because shorebirds spend a large portion of their lives in transit, each stopover is a much-needed opportunity for them to rest and fatten up, so as to survive the next leg of the journey.

One species, the buff-breasted sandpiper, is especially dependent on the eastern Rainwater Basin. According to a study by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, virtually all of the world's "buffies" ã estimated at 20,000 to 30,000 ã stop over to feed in the region's agricultural fields each spring.

Because the region plays a vital role in the survival of buff-breasted sandpipers and other shorebirds, the Joint Venture will seek the designation, "Landscape of Hemispheric Importance" from WHSRN, a hemisphere-wide network of scientists, conservation groups,and shorebird habitat sites. WHSRN is a voluntary, non-government organization that neither makes nor enforces policy or regulations; its mission is to identify the sites and regions on which shorebirds depend, and to promote research, cooperation, and communication regarding the resources these birds require. WHSRN applicants are required to solicit public input regarding the potential designation. Comments may be sent to Steve Moran, Coordinator, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, 2550 N. Diers Avenue, Grand Island, NE 68803 or by e-mail to Steve Moran. Additional information about WHSRN is at www.whsrn.org.