Private donations bring in almost $50K for bobolinks

BURLINGTON —The Bobolink Project has had another successful year. Nearly $50,000 was raised through private donations to protect grassland bird nesting habitat on 549 acres in 13 hayfields in nine towns in Vermont’s Champlain Valley.
A total of 326 donors from Vermont and other states including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan and California helped compensate farmers this summer who agreed to delay mowing their fields until after the nesting season.
This action has helped ensure a greater survival rate for bobolinks, which have experienced a significant decline in population in the Northeast over the past several years. Project researchers estimated that 197 pairs of bobolinks raised approximately 550 fledglings on these hayfields, which also supported Savannah sparrows, eastern meadowlarks and northern harriers.
Since its pilot year in 2013, the Bobolink Project, a collaborative effort of University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and the University of Connecticut (UConn), has raised $114,450 to ensure that more than 1,000 acres in Addison and Chittenden counties are safe habitat for ground-nesting birds.
Research and administrative costs were covered by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, so all money raised went directly to Vermont farmers.
According to the project’s leader, Dr. Stephen Swallow, a UConn agricultural and resource economics professor, “The Bobolink Project has proven that it provides a service that people value. The number of donors and dollars has increased each year. Supporters provided for 549 acres this year, quite a growth from 200 and 340 in the previous two years.”
“With grant funding coming to an end, we are developing a strategy to create a permanent home for the project and a management plan that will keep the project running successfully into the future,” Dr. Lisa Chase, UVM Extension natural resources specialist, notes. “We hope to expand the model in Vermont and introduce it to additional states with prime bobolink habitat. We are actively seeking additional supporters who can help sustain the project for the long run.”
The project’s success has already drawn interest from various sources in other states, including water companies, land trusts and communities that realize that they can manage some of their grassland areas for the benefit of the birds and for people who value the environment.
To learn more, visit www.bobolinkproject.com or contact Swallow at (860) 486-1917 or stephen.swallow@uconn.edu. Or check out the project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheBobolinkProject.

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