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Carrol Henderson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Katie Burns of Audubon Minnesota briefed a group of Crosslake area residents on the advantages of receiving the Bird City designation at a meeting held at the Crosslake City Hall Tuesday, May 8. - photo by Bill Monroe

Birding could feather area’s tourism nest

Web posted May 15, 2018
By Bill Monroe, Northland Press Correspondent

Two experts on wildlife explained how earning a Bird City designation could bring more tourism dollars to the Crosslake area while protecting birds and enhancing their habitat. Carrol Henderson, Supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Statewide Nongame Wildlife Program since 1977 and Katie Burns, Bird-Friendly Communities Manager for Audubon Minnesota, spoke to a group of interested citizens and local government officials Tuesday, May 8 about the Bird City program.

Henderson said that birding has become the third most popular hobby in America attracting 86 million Americans who spent $75 billion on their hobby, according to a study conducted in 2016. It is the fastest growth area in tourism, he said. All ages are involved in birding and one-third of those involved are women. Birders like to watch, feed and photograph birds as well as find ways to protect and enhance bird habitat.

Henderson has developed an assessment tool for communities to use to help develop marketing plans to attract tourists. He has developed a top ten list of birds and other animals that tourists will spend travel time and tourism dollars to see. The first step is to identify from that list those birds and animals that are prevalent in a community’s area. The next step is to determine which months of the year each species on the list can easily be viewed. The third step is to delete from the list of viewing months those that are already heavy tourism months to identify “shoulder seasons” where viewing is favorable and resort and hotel vacancies are available.The final step is to develop a marketing plan to reach target audiences to attract them to visit during those shoulder seasons.

Burns said the goals of the Bird City program are to engage people, increase bird habitat and reduce threats to birds including threats to their food, water supply and habitat. She said birds are sensitive creatures and are early indicators of environmental problems. If fewer birds are seen over time in a given area, that’s a sign there are environmental problems there, she said.

She said the Crosslake area is in the Mississippi flyway where 40 percent of all migrating waterfowl and shorebirds travel. This makes this area a great location for consideration as a Bird City. The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway includes the cities of Crosslake, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Jenkins. The mayors of the four communities and the leaders of the Byways Association have discussed the possibility of applying for Bird City designation as a region. Burns said that makes sense.

The Bird City program is a municipal recognition program with an educational component. Audubon Minnesota, funded with a grant from the state, has a goal of creating 40 Bird City communities in the next three years. The organization has developed a set of best practices related to its three goals of engaging people, increasing habitat and reducing bird threats. In order to be designated as a Bird City, each of the four towns in the Byway region would need to pass a resolution recognizing International Migratory Bird Day and the region would have to hold a celebration marking that day. In addition, the region would need to show that it had enacted at least seven of the best practices.

Cindy Mercer-Nelson, Chair of the Byways Association Board, said she would develop a timetable for next steps in the process to obtain the designation.

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