BOISE, Idaho – The Peregrine Fund was honored Wednesday by the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association for leadership and expertise in the effort to save the Northern Aplomado Falcon from extinction.
Since 2006, The Peregrine Fund has worked cooperatively with the U.S. military to release captive-bred Aplomado Falcons to the wild on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“This program has clearly demonstrated to commanders nationwide that programs to recover endangered species can be quite harmonious with military use of the land,” said Junior Kerns, chief of the Environmental Stewardship Branch at the missile range.
Bill Heinrich, head of The Peregrine Fund’s species recovery program, and Joell Brown, development coordinator, accepted the 2011 Award for Natural Resources Conservation Communication-Conservation Partnerships at a ceremony Wednesday in Leavenworth, Kansas. The group also presented the award to Patricia L. Cutler, a civilian wildlife biologist who manages migratory bird and endangered species programs at the range.
“White Sands is an important partner in our effort to return the Aplomado Falcon to its native Southwest habitat,” Heinrich said. “We accept this award with gratitude to the military for its unwavering support.”
More than 150 young Aplomado Falcons have been released on the missile range and surrounding area in the last five years. The birds are produced in captivity at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, and transported to New Mexico for release.
As an indicator of the program’s success, eight nesting pairs have been found in New Mexico since 2007, with four pairs located in 2008 alone. This year, The Peregrine Fund will begin a study to learn more about the falcons in the wild. Like other birds of prey at the top of a delicate food web, Aplomado Falcons can reveal whether pollutants or other problems pose a danger to them or other animals, including humans, in the environment.
“As a sentinel species, the Aplomado Falcon will give us the opportunity to learn why some years are better than others in producing breeding pairs,” Brown said. “We will launch a major radio telemetry study in order to determine just where the birds are moving after they leave the release sites, as well as to determine potential mortality factors.”
For more than 20 years The Peregrine Fund has collaborated with many partners, including private landowner and state and federal agencies, to return the falcons to their historic range. In 1993, The Peregrine Fund began breeding captive Aplomado Falcons and releasing them to the wild. The recovery project began in South Texas, where there appears now to be a sustainable population. The program was expanded to West Texas in 2002 and to New Mexico in 2006.
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