The National Audubon Society (NAS) requires all Audubon chapters to have a Conservation Committee (CC). The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society (MVAS) by-laws require the CC to be informed of local, state, and national governmental policies and actions affecting the natural environments and conservation of natural resources. The CC is also required to draft and recommend the MVAS Conservation Policy (this document) to the Board for approval, to carry out the policy, and to coordinate actions with NAS.
MVAS conservation initiatives and projects will be consistent with NAS policy and initiatives. The current NAS conservation program is described at https://www.audubon.org/conservation, and includes five key strategies focused on Coasts, Water, Climate, Working Lands, and Bird-friendly Communities. All of these strategies, with the exception of Coasts, are relevant to the area that MVAS serves in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico.
From the NAS web site:
WATER: Audubon’s Water initiative will focus on landscapes where both water quantity and water quality are paramount to birds’ survival. Affecting public water policies is one key aspect of our work, but policy alone won’t be enough to address these challenging issues.
CLIMATE: Climate change poses an unprecedented threat not just to birds but to biodiversity and our shared quality of life. Audubon is responding to this challenge with an equally unprecedented combination of strategies, from advancing transformational policies that reduce carbon emissions and support well-sited green energy to leading adaptive land management practices that will mitigate the impact of sea level rise and climate change.
WORKING LANDS: Best management practices on ranches, farms, and forests hold the key to survival for more than 150 species of threatened grassland and forest birds. By partnering with landowners, Audubon can help ensure a bright future for birds like the Cerulean Warbler and the Tricolored Blackbird, and a healthy landscape for future generations.
BIRD-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES: Most Americans live in cities or suburbs, and people can play a critical role in fostering healthy wildlife populations and communities. Rural regions have an outsized opportunity to contribute. As the leading voice for birds, Audubon can inspire the one in five adults who watch birds to make daily lifestyle choices that add up to real conservation impact.
Annual review: This policy will be reviewed and updated annually by the CC and presented to the board for approval.
Responsibilities: Within MVAS, the CC is responsible for all conservation initiatives and projects. If an MVAS member or board member wishes to initiate a conservation project, they shall first present it to the CC. The CC will then evaluate the project proposal for costs, timeline, time commitments, key personnel, etc., and present to the board with a recommendation for approval or denial.
Accomplishments: The CC will present an annual list of accomplishments to the Board (Appendix A).
Appendix A. 2022 Conservation Projects and Initiatives
Backyard Bird and Pollinator Habitat Booklet: This project is consistent with the Bird-friendly Communities strategy of NAS. A backyard habitat booklet is being developed that focuses on the use of native plants to support birds and pollinators in southern New Mexico backyards. This specific information is not available in any other publication, and our goal is to expand the network of suitable habitat for birds and pollinators in the region. The anticipated completion date is May 1st 2023.
Lights Out Las Cruces: This project is consistent with the Bird-friendly Communities strategy of NAS. This initiative sprung from a dark sky proclamation written by MVAS and endorsed by the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. The project will encourage area residents and businesses to carry out lighting practices that control light and limit sky glow via the use of fully-shielded (cut off) lighting, and/or turning lights out during spring and fall bird migration. A lighting survey is planned, which will be presented to the City Council in an effort to educate the city government and facilitate codes enforcement. Educational materials on the impacts of uncontrolled lighting on people and birds will be developed and distributed, and MVAS appreciation certificates given to businesses that carry out lighting practices that are consistent with Lights Out Las Cruces. (see 2023 Lights Outs Las Cruces Work Page in this section)
Local Area Water Policies: This project is consistent with the Water strategy of NAS. We have worked with the US International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) to keep abreast of water conditions in our section of the Rio Grande. This has included being a member of the Citizen's Forum for the USIBWC, Upper Rio Grande Sector, and conducting a year's long bird survey when they were considering a riparian restoration of the Rio Grande sector adjacent to the Las Cruces water treatment facility. We use our newsletter, Roadrunner Ramblings, to inform our community about current events regarding water scarcity in New Mexico and West Texas.
Tracking and Action on Conservation Legislation: This project is consistent with the overall NAS conservation strategy and Action Network. The CC follows state and federal legislation that could affect birds, and sends out timely emails to the MVAS membership when action is prudent. For example, action notifications for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act were emailed to the MVAS membership twice in 2022 and posted on the chapter Facebook page.