First “National Blueway” The Connecticut River Watershed
There’s good news in the Atlantic flyway for birds and bird lovers alike: the Connecticut River Watershed has been designated as the first National Blueway. National Blueways are a key component of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative launched by President Obama to develop a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda for the nation.
The Connecticut River, flowing 410 miles from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, is a major migratory route for birds and provides nesting habitat for many priority forest birds including Cerulean Warbler, Wood Thrush and Bicknell’s Thrush, grassland and shrubland birds like the Grasshopper Sparrow, American Woodcock and Prairie Warbler, and globally significant populations of nesting Saltmarsh Sparrow.
The river’s 7.2 million acre watershed includes 20 of Audubon’s Important Bird Areas, large forest blocks and floodplains, globally significant wetlands, and expansive tidal marshes where the river meets Long Island Sound. High above it is the Atlantic Flyway a ‘super highway’ for Neotropical migratory birds and home to many federally threatened and endangered species.
Here are four Audubon Important Bird Areas where bird enthusiasts and anyone eager to take a New England nature break can experience the splendor of the majestic Connecticut River Blueway:
Connecticut: Northwest Park
New Hampshire: Pondicherry Division of the Conte Refuge
Vermont: Nulhegan Basin Division of the Conte Refuge
Massachusetts: Mount Holyoke/Mount Tom/East Mountain Range
The Blueway also includes two national forests, portions of the New England and Appalachian Trails, and the unique Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge – the only Refuge with 2.4 million residents living in nearly 400 cities and rural towns.
As Chairman of the Executive Committee of Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Connecticut’s Director of Bird Conservation, Patrick Comins, was actively engaged in the process of developing the America’s Great Outdoors Blueway concept from start to finish, ensuring that the designation included conservation as well as recreation throughout the entire watershed. “This is a historic step and we applaud Secretary Salazar for recognizing the importance of Connecticut River and its Watershed. Audubon is looking forward to continuing and expanding our work with the Federal family; to establish new and bolster existing partnerships and programs that link conservation, education, and outdoor recreation efforts and opportunities throughout the Watershed,” said Comins.
Through the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte Refuge, Audubon leads over 40 other nonprofit and government organizations working to support the Blueway designation process. The designation will help conserve wildlife habitat and working lands, while promoting access to wildlife observation areas and supporting outdoor recreation economies.
Source: National Audubon Society