Bill Rapai, chair of the board of directors of the Kirtland's Warbler Alliance, was one of four featured speakers at the Kirtland's Warbler Delisting Ceremony at the Kellogg Conference Center in East Lansing, Michigan, on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Here is the text of his comments:
"Thank you, Steve.
My name is William Rapai, and I am chair of the board of directors of the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance. I’m here today representing all the individuals and non-governmental organizations that have played and will continue to play an important role in Kirtland’s Warbler conservation. The warbler may be coming off the endangered species list but this is not the end of their involvement. Their participation is going to be increasingly important and necessary as we refine our conservation efforts going forward.
"The Alliance is, for lack of a better term, a friends group. We are a 501-C-3 non-profit established in 2013 and our mission is to be an advocate for Kirtland’s Warbler conservation with legislators, policy makers, and the public. I’d like to quickly acknowledge our board members and thank them for their commitment to our organization and to Kirtland’s Warbler conservation.
"Over the past 50 years, dozens of organizations and many individuals have worked in the United States, Canada, and The Bahamas, offering their time and resources to help pull the Kirtland’s Warbler from the brink of extinction. We simply do not have time to list everybody so I apologize if I don’t mention a specific organization or person, but let me assure you that your participation is valued. However, I am going to mention a few organizations so you can get sense for the community of support for the Kirtland’s Warbler and how these organizations help:
"The Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests have been instrumental in replanting jack pine to create new Kirtland’s Warbler breeding habitat.
The Bahamas National Trust, which is a nonprofit organization that helps to conserve the warblers’ wintering habitat.
Michigan Audubon, which sponsored Kirtland’s Warbler research and conservation efforts in the early 20th century. Today Michigan Audubon sponsors Kirtland’s Warbler tours that take thousands of birders into the field to see the warbler in its nesting habitat every spring and summer.
Universities that have supported research that has helped fill information gaps.
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, which has provided science support to refine management approaches and expand our understanding of migration routes and needs.
The timber industry, including private landowners and organizations, for their role in harvesting mature trees to help us make new breeding habitat possible and for supporting conservation efforts.
The national, regional, and local chapters of Audubon that help to support Kirtland’s Warbler conservation.
The Kirtland’s Warbler Festival Committee, which helps to lead educational and outreach efforts by local community organizations. Those efforts help us tell the Kirtland’s Warbler story and explain why continuing conservation efforts are both important and economically beneficial to local communities.
Huron Pines, a northern Michigan based conservation NGO that launched the Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative, which led to the formation of the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance.
The American Bird Conservancy, which is helping to support the work of the Kirtland’s Warbler Conservation Team, building capacity in the Bahamas and helping to address future funding needs.
"I also want to acknowledge the volunteers who have played a critical role in Kirtland’s Warbler conservation over the past 116 or so years. Starting with Norman Wood, who documented the first nest of the Kirtland’s Warbler in Michigan in 1903, to Lawrence Walkinshaw, a dentist from Battle Creek, who became the first person to band a Kirtland’s Warbler for research purposes; to Josselyn VanTyne, the curator of birds at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, who raised the knowledge of Kirtland’s Warbler’s biology exponentially; to Harold Mayfield a businessman from Toledo, Ohio, who persuaded the State of Michigan to set aside land for Kirtland’s Warbler nesting areas and created the Kirtland’s Warbler census; to Bruce Radabaugh, who used his own money to search the northern Bahamas for Kirtland’s Warblers on their wintering grounds; to Mike Petrucha, who has gathered decades’ worth of sightings that have provided us with insight on Kirtland’s Warbler migration routes.
"And we absolutely have to acknowledge the volunteers who fight their way through dense jack-pine stands to count singing males as part of the census. If you have never participated in a census, I have to tell you those participants put up with rain, cold, heat, mosquitos, black flies and the occasional twisted ankle to make sure we have accurate numbers to inform management efforts. It’s not easy, but it certainly is rewarding.
"Even though Kirtland’s Warbler conservation is now part of the mission of these agencies, I believe private individuals still have a role to play. You can support businesses that support Kirtland’s Warbler conservation. If you are a landowner in the United States, Canada or the Bahamas, you can work with experts to manage your property to provide additional Kirtland’s Warbler nesting habitat. If you’re an individual birder who sees a Kirtland’s Warbler somewhere along its migration route, you can snap a photo and report it to eBird. Most importantly, if you are an individual who believes in Kirtland’s Warbler conservation, speak up! Contact your state and federal legislators to tell them why it’s important that they continue to support Kirtland’s Warbler conservation efforts.
"Thank you for inviting me to speak today. I look forward to many years of collaboration and cooperation in behalf of Michigan’s unofficial state bird."