An initiative to conserve migratory shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere has been developing over the last two decades. The concept is to identify and recognize the importance of significant migratory shorebird stopover sites. To do this, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) program was developed and put in place. In 1998, three WHSRN sites that share the same species of shorebirds along the migratory pathway were networked through a conservation linkage. These sites are the Chaplin Lake and other associated lake areas of Saskatchewan, Canada, the Great Salt Lake of Utah, United States, and the Marismas Nacionales complex of Nayarit, Mexico. A Commission for Environmental Concern Grant administered through Wetlands International in cooperation with Saskatchewan Wetlands Conservation Corporation, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Wetlands International Mexico assisted by SEMARNAT (Nayarit) funded the initial “Linking” effort. The program is known as the Linking Communities, Wetlands and Migratory Birds Initiative, or Linking for short.
Since its inception, Linking has worked through local partnerships in the three countries to carry out conservation activities. Three areas of action are at the heart of Linking: education, ecotourism, and avian conservation. The primary emphases have been on shared formal education through various environmental education programs and university interactions, developing ecotourism partnerships including internationally connected bird festivals, and collective science and habitat conservation for migratory and endemic birds.
As important as projects are to the success of Linking, the working relationships and shared vision of the partners sustain the partnership. A broader conservation perspective has developed with new partnerships, but migratory bird conservation remains the primary focus. The power of the cooperative concept through range-wide bird conservation has carried the program forward more than resource support.
In 2015, Linking Communities will be strengthened through institutionalized initiatives that provide for sustainable conservation in each of the three priority areas and at all seasons. An integration of range-wide monitoring, research and habitat conservation with quorums of cooperative institutions, biologists, educators and community leaders will be actively engaged.
Communities will recognize the value of sustainable natural resources as a measure of social, economic, educational and cultural health. Success will occur when we each, in our own place and time, see a migratory bird and know our responsibility for its well being and for those friends from which it has departed and to whom it will return.
The Utah Linking Initiative participates in connecting people along a migratory bird pathway that extends from the Chaplin and Quill Lakes of Canada, through the Great Salt Lake of the United States, to the Marismas Nacionales of Mexico and beyond.
Linking promotes range-wide conservation of migratory birds that each community shares and the endemic birds that frequent these environments. As Linking partners we work within our communities and cooperate internationally to preserve these critical areas for their ecological values, and the economic, educational, social and cultural wellbeing of the people who live near them.
Efforts are focused in three areas: environmental education, ecotourism, and conservation.