Audubon Identifies Area Around Canyonlands National Park As "Globally Important Bird Area"

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The number of Mexican Spotted owls, such as this one in Zion National Park, near Canyonlands National Park has led the Audubon Society to designate the area around Canyonlands as a Globally Important Bird Area. NPS photo.

Though located in the arid landscape of the Colorado Plateau, the area around Canyonlands National Park attracts a lot of birds and provides valuable habitat for species such as the Mexican spotted owl. As such, the area has been identified as a "Globally Important Bird Area" by the National Audubon Society.

“The Canyonlands area is known worldwide for its many recreational opportunities and expansive scenic views. This special recognition by the National Audubon Society now brings significant attention to the fact that this striking area also is tremendously important as habitat for a diversity of wildlife including Mexican spotted owls and a large number of other bird species," said Mark Miller, chief of resource stewardship and science for the National Park Service's Southeast Utah Group.

The Canyonlands Area IBA joins 21 additional IBAs recognized in Utah to date.

Important Bird Areas are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird, and meet criteria established by Utah's IBA Technical Team.

“The IBA program is an excellent way to identify critical areas for birds across the world and in Utah,” expalined John Bellmon, chairperson of the Audubon Council of Utah and chair of Utah's IBA Technical Team. “The inclusion of specific properties grants no management authority nor enables any landowner restrictions from the IBA program. But by working cooperatively with landowners, the hope is that the areas can continue to be monitored and conserved for the future.”

The Canyonlands Area IBA consists of the area designated as Critical Habitat Unit CP-14 as part of the Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. This Critical Habitat Unit includes all of Canyonlands National Park; the northern portion of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; the portion of the Manti-La Sal National Forest south of Canyonlands National Park; and, BLM lands supervised by the Monticello Field Office as well as the Henry Mountain Field Station.

The approximate acreage is 1,430,472 acres.

This IBA does not include any private lands or Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands. Canyonlands Area (or Critical Habitat Unit CP-14) has been selected as a Globally Important Bird Area due primarily to the numbers of Mexican spotted owls found through bird surveys in the area. The numeric criteria are easily met in this Critical Habitat Unit for Mexican spotted owl; the best available data indicate a total of 27 breeding pairs. The global criterion is ten breeding pairs. Additional individuals as well as young can be found during the breeding season. This far exceeds the global criteria, according to a release from Audubon Society.

The Canyonlands Area is one of only four IBAs in Utah and Arizona that have been identified as a Global IBA for spotted owl. Though bird census data do not currently demonstrate that the IBA meets additional criteria, there are numerous bird species in the area. For example approximately 200 species are confirmed as having been seen in Canyonlands National Park.

The IBA Program is designed to be proactive, voluntary, science-based, and credible. The Utah program connects to other North American IBA sites through the National Audubon Society, and worldwide through BirdLife International.