SHERIDAN — The Amsden and Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Areas in the Sheridan region recently received recognition from Audubon Rockies, the regional office of the National Audubon Society for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, as Wyoming’s newest Important Bird Areas.
IBA designation confers no regulations on the property but instead recognizes an area for its significance to local bird populations. The effort to designate areas as IBAs was led by the Bighorn Chapter of the Audubon Society and Wyoming Game and Fish Department Sheridan Region personnel.
“We are very excited to add both these areas into our IBA program,” said Dr. Jackie Canterbury, president of the Bighorn Audubon Chapter. “The first thing Audubon asks is ‘why is this site important for birds?’ In the case of Amsden and Kerns it is simple — both of these areas sustain healthy populations of birds and contain important habitats such as native grassland, forest, shrub stands of native chokecherry and serviceberry and riparian areas in the form of small streams and the larger Tongue and Little Horn rivers. The other significance of these lands is their location along the Bighorn Mountain foothills, a region that is most often in private ownership. All these elements provide a unique opportunity to protect the birds of our region, particularly grassland and shrubland birds which are both experiencing dramatic declines.”
The designation process involved documenting the areas as providing important nesting, brood rearing and foraging areas for native bird species as well as on-site visits by Audubon representatives. The relationship of Bighorn Audubon to this area is unique because in the early 1980s, long-time Audubon member Jean Daly completed a wildlife inventory on both management areas and documented over 80 species of birds. An informal, one-day survey of Kerns WHMA on July 4 revealed 33 bird species using the area.
“The Kerns and Amsden Creek celebrate their 70th and 75th anniversaries respectively in 2019,” said WGFD Sheridan Region Public Information Specialist Christina Schmidt. “While these areas were originally purchased for and are still managed first and foremost for elk winter range, dozens of other wildlife species benefit from the management and conservation of these areas. As a region, we were interested in pursuing IBA designations for these units to show their value not only for elk and other big game species, but a variety of wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts such as bird watchers.”
Game and Fish’s Soda Lake, South Park and Yellowtail WHMAs also have IBA designations.