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Grassland birds and dairy farms in the northeastern United States


  • Associate Editor: Grado


Although grassland birds are declining throughout their North American range, and these declines are associated with agricultural land conversion or intensification, no broad-scale market-based conservation plan has been enacted. This gap is especially apparent in the northeastern United States, where remnant grassland habitat is predominantly on privately owned agricultural lands. However, in this region, dairy cow-based agriculture has also declined significantly. I explored the relationship between grassland-bird declines and dairy cow-based agriculture from 1966 to 2007. The declining number of dairy farms and increasing human population best explained variation in population trends for 4 of 6 grassland-bird species. Bird population trends were not explained by the total amount of corn acres, number of pasture–grazing farms, or the average farm size. I suggest a long-term conservation method using “buy local” campaigns where the local community supports a spatially linked network of cow-based farms, in part because these farms support grassland birds. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.

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