North American Bird Conservation Initiative
Second Trinational Meeting
February 14 - 16, 2001
The second trinational meeting of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) opened with a series of welcoming presentations by several Mexican panelists. They included Exequiel Ezcurra (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), Yvonne Vandenpeereboom (Legislatura del Estado de Querétaro), Humberto Berlanga (NABCI - Mexico), Ernesto Enkerlin (Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas), Jurgen Hoth (North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation - CEC) and Martha Ruiz Corzo (Reserva de la Biósfera Sierra Gorda). Panelists emphasized the importance of NABCI as a trinational effort for bird conservation. They discussed the important role of birds for ecosystem dynamics at local and continental levels and stressed the value of existing and upcoming opportunities for all three countries to work together toward achieving common bird conservation goals. A strong, optimistic message, and a call to participants to find new ways to improve the effectiveness of our conservation efforts through NABCI set the stage for the two-day meeting.
A series of four plenary presentations provided a historical context from the perspectives of all three partner nations and reinforced the collective vision that has been evolving through NABCI. A consistent theme of the talks was the tremendous opportunity offered by the Querétaro workshop, and the enormous responsibility thrust upon participants to seize this opportunity.
Bob McLean (Canadian Wildlife Service) began the Querétaro workshop plenary presentations with a historical perspective, particularly as it related to bird conservation in Canada and the evolution of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The North American Waterfowl Management Plan arose in 1986 in response to a crisis in the status of waterfowl habitat and populations. It has become a model for wildlife conservation wherein innovative partnerships rely on a strong biological foundation to deliver conservation across priority landscapes. In both Canada and the United States, Joint Ventures have emerged as structures for the development of partnerships and the implementation of conservation projects. In Mexico, regional partnerships have served as delivery mechanisms for NAWMP since Mexico became a full partner in 1994. The 1998 Update to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan: Expanding the Vision further underlined the need for landscape planning based on sound science and a broadening of partnerships, while retaining a primary focus on wetlands and waterfowl. Since the emergence of NABCI, the characteristics of Joint Ventures and other regional partnerships have changed, to the point where many are prepared to deliver conservation for all birds in all habitats within their boundaries. In Canada, the NABCI challenge is also being met outside existing Joint Ventures in the Western Boreal Forest and South Okanagan Valley. The Querétaro workshop should further advance this progress by moving toward shared recognition of community partnerships as the basis for conservation with a strong, continent-wide biological foundation. Mr. McLean indicated the importance of looking beyond North America to other regions, such as Greenland and Central America, and to the conservation of other wildlife species. Moreover, he stressed the need for a formal international agreement for action that captures a sense of urgency for the conservation of all birds in all habitats throughout North America.
George Fenwick (American Bird Conservancy) followed with observations from a United States perspective, noting in particular the principles upon which Partners in Flight (PIF) and other successful bird conservation partnerships have been built. These principles include trust within and among countries and expanding work with landowners. Partnerships are of paramount importance, and solid partnerships are built on clear visions and shared trust from which partners benefit without losing autonomy. He added, however, that truly effective partnerships also involve some compromise by those involved. A strong, scientific foundation is also key, and this involves support for research and monitoring and regular re-evaluation of assumptions. Knowledge is never perfect; the best possible decisions must be made with the information at hand. There is an appropriate geographic scale for each element of conservation, and failure to apply this subtle principle is at the root of many misunderstandings. Bird conservation today must take an ecological approach, in which maintaining the health of ecosystems is more efficient than a crisis-level, single species approach. However, conservation is rarely the primary objective for most complex societies, and everyone must operate in awareness of realistic opportunities and challenges. Mr. Fenwick suggested that the Querétaro workshop encourage partners to move toward a collective long-term NABCI vision, recognizing that this is a large-scale initiative in which the clarity and consistency of that vision are key to its success.
Hesiquio Benitez (Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad) then offered a Mexican perspective, concentrating on accomplishments since the November 4-6, 1998 NABCI I meeting in Puebla, Mexico. A major focus has been the Important Bird Areas (IBAs in English and referred to in Spanish as "AICAS", Areas de Importancia para la Conservación de las Aves) program. It has resulted in the publication of a book describing the complete set of key areas for Mexico. Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs) have been mapped in Mexico, as in the United States and Canada, but in Mexico their main goal was to identify clusters of AICAS. The 16 highest priority AICAS have been identified in 12 of Mexicos 36 BCRs, with the goal of having at least one site in each BCR benefiting from the cooperation of North American partners. The hope is to develop institutional capacity, through enhanced organization and resources, that will lead to accelerated on-the-ground conservation efforts. The challenges are threefold: establish links with other groups, secure resources and establish partnerships among the three countries. There is optimism that the new administration will assume an enhanced leadership role in bird conservation, and that NABCIs influence will extend to broader portions of society resulting in concrete conservation achievements. The results of the Querétaro workshop should increase the profile of NABCI and bird conservation in Mexico.
The final presentation, given by Paul Schmidt (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), focused on NABCIs history and the opportunity and responsibility of the participants to make this workshop a success. The historical evolution of bird conservation through the 20th Century was reviewed, culminating in the CEC-led integrated NABCI partnership. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative became a reality at the first trinational meeting in Puebla, Mexico. Mr. Schmidt emphasized how fortunate we are to be involved in such a major transformation in bird conservation across this continent. This good fortune comes with a challenge to seize opportunities, first as presented in Querétaro, and then when participants return home to transform decisions into actions. While there now is an unprecedented level of support from leaders in conservation, there is also a great need to improve communications and broaden and solidify support for NABCI throughout the continent. We now have a developing vision and plan, with clear examples for implementation through partnership-based Joint Ventures. Our work is just beginning and much more remains to be done. Collaboration, compromise and cooperation at the Querétaro workshop will be a major step in the right direction.
The structure of the meeting was then outlined. Each of
the four half-day sessions focused on a single theme of critical importance
to continental bird conservation. Each session began with a short plenary
introduction, including a series of questions or topics for discussion.
Thereafter, each participant joined one of eight breakout groups, each
composed of participants from all three countries and every group discussed
a thematic topic in an effort to reach conclusions. A leader from each
group then met with the themes plenary speaker, and together they crafted
summary statements presented back to the participants and compiled in these
How do we best organize ourselves
for effective bird conservation action?
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative should be a trinational initiative that works with regional initiatives. It must act as a facilitating body, not a controlling one.
Considering that many bird species spend part of their life cycle outside North America, it would be advantageous for NABCI to eventually expand to include more countries.
The three national committees should each select three rotating members for the Trinational Committee. One of the roles of the Trinational Committee is to develop international agreements that hold ministers and their departments accountable for implementing continental habitat and population objectives. Another role is addressing communications issues.
Bird Initiatives (IBAs, NAWMP, etc.) and other prominent factors in bird conservation communities should constitute National Committees, with national chairs drawn from this group. Efforts should be made to reduce confusion and redundancy while still maintaining autonomy and "NABCI-like" democracy among the players. The National Committees are NABCI implementation bodies. The three national coordinators are the main linkage between on-the-ground implementation and the national NABCI Committees.
A trinational plan is needed for NABCI to operate properly.
This plan must include a vision, objectives and strategies. It could be
written by an international team represented by NAWMP, PIF, North American
Waterbird Conservation Plan (NAWCP), national shorebird planning teams,
IBA program leaders and national committee partners.
Functions and Actions
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative should focus on trinational issues that involve the following functions and actions:
3) Data Management
Enhance communication among and within countries. Participants recognized NABCI
Plan NABCI at multiple scales, such as biological, geographical and political.
Strengthen local capacity and promote cultural exchange among
NABCI Strategic Planning Issues
The eight groups discussing NABCI planning and evaluation needs all recognized the need to establish a clear and detailed strategic plan, named by some groups as the "NABCI Blueprint." This plan should have sections on vision, goals, objectives (performance measures), conservation priorities, implementation, needed resources, timelines, monitoring and evaluation. The strategic plan should consider issues such as different scales, national, binational and trinational politics and cultural challenges. Important reasons for having a NABCI strategic plan include strengthening federal support in each country, securing financial support, formalizing partnerships, legitimizing activities, and facilitating cooperation. Features and outcomes of such a plan that were discussed include:
Improve participants communication
NABCI Monitoring and Evaluation Issues
NABCI Database Issues
Kinds of databases:
Species Priorities Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
NABCI Database Needs:
Facilitate list of existing international internet-based
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) NABCI to facilitate making layers, including land-use patterns, etc., available to all countries
A workshop that would identify and address database issues
would be useful. Topics should include ways to minimize duplicated efforts
among initiatives, database needs and standards, and future needs. The
North American Bird Conservation Initiative must concentrate on how to
fund and support long-term data collection and monitoring and internet
1) Delivery through Partnerships
Self-directed, with the capacity to fund and execute projects
in support of objectives
2) Biological Foundation
biologically based framework for planning
Integrated conservation plans with specific, measurable objectives
3) National and International Coordination
National NABCI Council/Committee:
Dr Boer finished his presentation with a series of questions for the breakout groups to discuss. The groups reached the following conclusions:
Question 1: What structures and mechanisms facilitate coordination?
Do what works and build on existing structures
What are the barriers?
Question 2: How do we establish and maintain effective partnerships?
Question 3: How do we balance local autonomy with continental responsibilities?
Guiding document with continental challenges, priorities and strategies
Question 4: How do we keep partners working together?
Look beyond traditional funding sources
Question 6: How do we make decisions regarding resources?
Based on the biological foundation
Conclusion: NABCI should continue to sell the vision but
expand efforts to sell the successes.
The final session was organized around five issues that followed upon decisions that were articulated in the preceding sessions. Many key points from the earlier sessions were reiterated and emphasized prior to the breakout deliberations. These included:
That NABCI is first and foremost a facilitating effort, and not a directing
That the focus of NABCI is on-the-ground delivery of conservation
That NABCI is a biologically driven effort that requires monitoring,
That to build communications is integral in the effort to building partnerships
Based on this framework for discussion, participants were
asked to deliberate on the following issues in their breakout sessions:
Questions to be considered here included who would sign such a document, what steps should be taken to start the process of developing such a document and what would be included in it. Suggestions for the groups to consider inclusion of functional elements in the NABCI Action Plan, inclusion of a commitment to structures for international coordination, commitment to processes for international communication and information sharing, etc.
There is broad consensus that an accord is needed between
the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The purpose and use of the accord is:
To serve as a public expression for trinational cooperation to deliver
Observations on the issue of who should sign such a document include:
Signatures should be at the highest level of authority possible, ie: at
Suggested elements of the accord include:
Process issues include:
Structure for International Coordination
NABCI has developed to date primarily through national-level
efforts. An issue of concern is how to facilitate coordination of efforts
across national boundaries. Options to consider might include a specific
role for the G-9; affiliation with the Trilateral Committee; investing
the Chairs of the three NABCI National Committees with this responsibility;
assignment of responsibilities to the National Coordinators; or the creation
of a separate oversight group of NABCI partners.
It was agreed that a Trinational Committee is needed to deal with issues that are international in scope, and that simply attaching this function to the Trilateral Committee or another existing body is not a satisfactory solution. It was suggested that the current G9 structure be a starting point, with modifications suggested and membership specified by the three national committees/councils. Close linkage to the national committees is needed, with at least some of the trinational representatives belonging to those committees. A continued close connection to the CEC was also suggested.
Relevant questions for this issue include the appropriate conservation focus for such projects, what conservation actions would be undertaken in them, the relevant criteria for recognizing such projects (e.g., broad partnerships, high priority areas in each country, involvement of several bird conservation initiatives, etc.).
The value of on-the-ground projects to illustrate the importance of working across international borders and among initiatives was agreed upon. These would not necessarily be "NABCI" projects, but rather projects to demonstrate the value of the NABCI vision.
The criteria discussed for an exemplary trinational project include:
Communications and Information Sharing
Communications and information sharing were a focus of discussion in virtually all the breakout sessions, irrespective of the session topic. The general idea in most discussions was that communication efforts and information sharing are much needed, and are likely to be more effective if they are coordinated at multiple levels. Issues concerning the identification of common messages for a communications strategy, the need for an institutional and structural process, the mechanisms for developing and sharing communications products, how to facilitate data information sharing via the internet, and shared information infrastructures, data protocols and data products were discussed.
The need for stronger NABCI communications products and tools was agreed upon. Some of the themes suggested were:
Development of a communications strategy stressing that integrated bird conservation
Communications process issues were identified, including:
Existing projects should be highlighted as success stories
Several potential NABCI products and activities were identified including:
At the close of the final plenary session, Karen Brown, Chair of the NABCI-Canada Council, Bob McDowell, Co-Chair of the NABCI-U.S. Committee and Hesiquio Benitez, on behalf of Dr. Jorge Soberón, Chair of the NABCI-Mexico Committee, offered their perspectives on the meeting. They all recognized and appreciated the participation, enthusiasm and commitment of the people in all three Nations for the progress made since NABC I in Puebla, Mexico.
They supported the proposed development of a strong trinational agreement with clear and specific objectives, signed at the highest possible level while maintaining the multi-sector spirit of the initiative (similar to the NAWMP agreement). The need for close cooperation among the three national NABCI committees was recognized and they supported the formation of an enhanced trinational committee to facilitate that cooperation.
There was strong support for the development of integrated bird conservation demonstration projects, as part of a NABCI pilot implementation phase, but noted that this should be done carefully. There is a need to review what has been accomplished and determine what still needs to be done. These projects will provide successful examples that will aid in promoting the many benefits of integrated bird conservation and cooperation at the national and international levels.
Communications is recognized as crucial to NABCIs success. The Querétaro participants recognize that professional communications expertise is needed to further the communications strategy and to develop quality communications products.
Participants also recognize the need for increased funding to deliver NABCI priorities. Partners are encouraged to commit efforts to seeking increased funding.
The importance of the involvement of political leaders
in NABCI was recognized. Hesiquio Benitez concluded the NABCI II meeting
by expressing his appreciation to the those who made the meeting possible
through their hard work and participation, to the CEC for their financial
support, and to the staff of the Hacienda Jurica for helping to make NABCI
II a success.
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