Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Bird City Wisconsin: Oft Imitated, Not Yet Duplicated

Bird City Wisconsin’s program “Making our communities healthy for birds… and people” has spawned similar programs in three other states: Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, reshaped the course of an analogous program in Pennsylvania and helped with plans to launch a program in Texas later in 2018.

The National Audubon Society and independent state Audubon chapters have paved the way in each of these states. In Indiana, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, state Audubon chapters run the program. Iowa has assembled perhaps the widest coalition of partners. Indiana adopted BCW’s program and criteria almost intact, while the other states have reformulated the recognition criteria. In working with Minnesota Audubon, BCW updated its own criteria and added a major sustainability component in 2017.

Here’s quick look at those other programs:

BIRD CITY MINNESOTA

Bird City MNBird City Minnesota (BCM) was launched under the National Audubon Society’s Bird Friendly Communities initiative with a mission statement similar to Wisconsin’s: Healthy communities for birds and people.

With  the additional tagline: Transforming the places where people live and work into habitats where birds thrive, BCM promotes and celebrates communities that fulfill specific criteria that improve bird habitat, reduce threats to birds and engage their citizens in conservation action. BCM provides a roadmap for communities to incorporate the needs of birds into their overall planning and operations.

Bird City helps birds by:

  • Restoring, protecting and improving bird habitat
  • Reducing threats such as window collisions, free-roaming cats, toxins and harmful human activities, often due to a lack of understanding of birds’ needs
  • Engaging people in learning about, enjoying and helping birds thrive

Bird City Minnesota says it is “modeled after the successful Bird City Wisconsin and Bird Town Pennsylvania programs. It also incorporates some actions from Minnesota GreenStep Cities.  It has a $200 application fee and recognized its first communities in 2016 (Hastings and Saint Paul) and added Bemidji in 2017.


BIRD TOWN INDIANA

Bird Town INSaying it was modeled after the Tree City USA program and the highly successful Bird City Wisconsin, Indiana Audubon Society launched Bird Town Indiana in 2013 and so far has recognized 11 communities. The application fee is $100.

Among them are Fort Wayne, Bloomington, Porter and Chesterton.

“If a community meets at least seven criteria, it becomes an official Bird Town. Indiana Bird Towns are those that both the public officials and citizens demonstrate an active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of bird populations and their habitats.

“These members belong to Audubon groups, nature preserves, land trusts, bird clubs, museums, garden clubs, school groups, chambers of commerce and other eco-minded businesses that can come together for effective planning, development and implementation of bird conservation measures.”


BIRD FRIENDLY IOWA

Bird Friendly IowaThis is a statewide bird habitat conservation and educational outreach program created by a partnership of Iowa conservation organizations. The flagship outreach and action program of Bird Friendly Iowa is called “Bird Friendly City,” and is similar to the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program.

The program web site notes: “Other states have recently initiated programs called “Bird City” or “Bird Town,” with Bird City Wisconsin being recognized as the national leader.

Bird Friendly Iowa was envisioned by its partners as a program that could promote birds and habitat conservation in a variety of public and private locations across the entire landscape. Bird Friendly City is the first phase of what is intended to become an even more all-encompassing program that will:

  • Work with communities, organizations and citizens to create and enhance essential habitats that support birds.
  • Educate citizens about the importance of birds and healthy ecosystems.
  • Provide public recognition for those who work for sustainable solutions for birds.

The Prairie Rapids Audubon Society  received special recognition at the Oct. 16 Waterloo City Council meeting when officials with Bird Friendly Iowa presented the mayor with the state's first Bird Friendly City designation.

Bird Friendly Iowa’s partners include the Conservation Districts of Iowa, Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards, Iowa Audubon, Iowa Department of Natural Resources , Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa Ornithologists' Union, Iowa Wildlife Center , Natural Resources Conservation Service , Sustainability Program - University of Iowa and Trees Forever, which hosts the program’s web site.

The application fee is $100.


BIRD TOWN PENNSYLVANIA

Bird Town PABird Town Pennsylvania is a working partnership of Audubon and 27 Pennsylvania municipalities (most at the township level) to promote conservation and community-based actions to create a healthy, more sustainable environment for birds and people.

Audubon emphasizes its own Bird Friendly Communities and Audubon at Home initiatives as the tools for municipalities to engage their residents, schools and businesses in making more ecologically-friendly decisions, conserving energy and, in the process, saving money. A Bird Town makes efforts to restore valuable ecosystem services to create a culture of conservation where everyone is a potential steward of nature in their backyard and beyond.

After year one (or when qualifications are met), the annual Bird Town program fee is $450 per year. By completing the Bird Town Pledge, a town can loop itself in for free to some Bird Town communications and gain some tools in anticipation of a full application.


TEXAS

The Texas Park & Wildlife Department and Audubon Texas have been working with Bird City Wisconsin to launch a new program in 2018 that hopes to begin recognizing communities in 2019.