The Important Bird Area Program (IBAs)
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are just what their name implies: places that are important for birds. The IBA Program is a global initiative whose goal is to identify, monitor, and protect a network of sites critical for the conservation of birds, referred to as Important Bird Areas or IBAs. Habitat loss and climate change are two profound threats facing bird species across the globe. IBAs provide critical habitat to one or more species of birds during some portion of the year (nesting areas, crucial migration stop-over sites, or wintering grounds). IBAs may vary in size and may include public or private lands, or both. For a place to qualify as an IBA, it must either support a large concentration of birds, provide habitat for a threatened or rare species, or provide habitat for a bird with a very limited or restricted range. The IBA program is an exciting initiative whose mission is to identify areas that are and will be critical habitats for birds now and in the future. Below are the IBA designations within the Bighorn Audubon Chapter.
Ucross IBA Designation, Sheridan County, March 2015
In March of 2015, under the guidance of Audubon Rockies, the local Bighorn Chapter of Audubon and the Ucross Foundation formed a partnership to designate the Ucross Ranch of 20,000 acres as an Important Bird Area. The ranch is not only incredibly important for birds, but it is managed extremely well with a keen focus on conservation. The habitat improvements and management of the ranch by Apache Foundation during the past 10 years have been essential factors in this recent designation. Dr. Canterbury’s new book on The Ucross Ranch can be purchased on Lulu books. Also download a 2018 Bird Checklist for Ucross Ranch. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
The Bradford Brinton IBA, Sheridan County, November 2017
In November, 2016, The Bighorn Audubon, in cooperation with Audubon Rockies, and The Brinton Museum formed a partnership to designate 620 acres of The Brinton as an Important Bird Area. This IBA designation recognizes the importance of The Brinton for birds on a national scale. For aid and viewing the Brinton’s diversity of birds look for the latest book which is available at The Brinton Museum: Common Birds of The Brinton Museum and Bighorn Mountains Foothills CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
Valley View Subdivision, Sheridan County, September 2017
In 2017, the 266 acre Valley View Subdivision in Big Horn was designated an IBA. The subdivision is located on the eastern slope of the Bighorn Mountain foothills and is predominately shortgrass prairie and sagebrush steppe, offering a myriad of prairie and sage adapted species.
Kleenburn Recreation Area, Sheridan County, July 2018
In 2018, the 77 acre -Kleenburn Recreation Area was designated an IBA. Kleenburn contains lowland riparian habitat that borders the Tongue River. It is just east of the Acme exit off I90 north. It includes walking trails for birding that follow the river, and offers several ponds, a marsh, and a grassland complex. See Wyoming Game & Fish video on Kleenburn and the IBA click here
Falxa Land Company, Johnson County, July 2018
In 2018, the Falxa Land Company of over 20,000 acres was designated an IBA. The Falxa Land Company is located in northeastern Johnson County and is predominately a prairie grassland/sage ecotype. This vegetational community is important for dozens of avian species. The IBA includes 5 miles along the Powder River.
Kerns and Amsden Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMA), Sheridan County, July 2019
In 2019, both Kerns and Amsden WHMAs were designated IBAS in partnership with Wyoming Game and Fish Sheridan Region personnel, spearheaded by Christina Schmidt. “The Kerns and Amsden Creek celebrate their 70th and 75th anniversaries respectively in 2019,” said 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.” The other significance of these lands is their location along the Bighorn Mountain foothills, a region that is most often in private ownership with focus on cattle grazing versus management for wildlife and birds.
Little Goose IBA, Sheridan County, 2019
Beginning in 2019, we designated a new IBA along the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains region as well as along the Little Goose Creek and its valley near Bighorn Wyoming. Currently we are excited to announce that we have 116 property owners and neighbors who have agreed to become part of the Little Goose IBA. This translates to over 12,000 acres of lands that form a network and shared vision for our community in support of our local bird populations. The support thus far for the Little Goose Important Bird Area has been overwhelming. The Brinton Museum, which became an IBA in 2016, has served as a catalyst for this work. Much of the IBA is in close proximity to The Brinton Museum as well as the Brinton Road and Highway 335. This is a work in progress.
HF Bar Ranch, Johnson County December 2022
The nationally historic HF Bar Ranch has managed to step into the future, while maintaining its past history as one of Wyoming’s most historic guest ranches. With respect for the past and hope for the future the Bighorn Audubon Society, is proud to announce the designation of the HF Bar Ranch as an Audubon Important Bird Area or IBA. This ranch provides an abundance of habitat for nesting, migrating, and wintering birds in a world where critical bird habitats are shrinking rapidly.
Jackie Canterbury, previous President of Bighorn Audubon, in collaboration with Margi Schroth, HF Bar owner and operator, and Sally Morton, past director of the Nature Conservancy’s Northeast Wyoming Program, worked together to place the 2,167-acre ranch into IBA status.
In the United States IBAs are designated by the American Bird Conservancy and the Audubon Society as part of a global conservation effort that focuses attention on key bird species and their habitats. The concept is simple: identify and compile an inventory of areas that sustain healthy populations of birds.
“There are many criteria and standards that must be met in order to achieve IBA status, and the HF Bar meets and exceeds those standards. The IBA designation gives birds standing, a place at the table, in a changing world. This is such an exciting opportunity for both Bighorn Audubon and the HF Bar Ranch. The ranch is not only incredibly important for birds, but it is managed extremely well with a keen focus on conservation,” says Canterbury.
The ranch holds the Rock Creek watershed of pine, cottonwood, aspen, and birch. Two forks of Rock Creek, North Rock Creek and South Rock Creek converge near the center of the ranch. A fork of Shell Creek also flows through the ranch. Riparian systems such as these are known to support over 50% of Wyoming’s bird species at some time in their life cycle. Trees like ponderosa pine, cottonwood, and willow abound in these systems. Birds like the American Dipper frequent the waters, while nuthatches, sapsuckers, woodpeckers and the Brown Creeper prefer the woodlands. Three species of hummingbird - Calliope, Rufous, and Broad-tailed inhabit the ranch. The ranch also includes 1,104 acres of grassland which are important for our declining grassland bird species of special interest such as the Bobolink and Brewer’s Sparrow.
The property remains a working cattle ranch and is managed holistically with a focus on land stewardship. In 2012, a conservation easement held by the Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy was placed on the ranch.
Margi Schroth is committed to protecting this land and shares “the HF Bar Ranch is multi-faceted in its landmass from riparian to sagebrush steppe, to open grassland, to alpine mountain and meadows and tall prairie. This land offers so much to so many both human and animal alike. As the current guardian of this land, my sole responsibility is to enhance and maintain that purity and balance for as long as possible. My commitment to this land is fulfilled by the Conservation Easements placed on it and by the Important Bird Area designation recently given by Audubon.” Sally Morton noted the value of record keeping, “This designation was based on 30 years of recorded bird observations at HF Bar from which 24 species were identified that fall into the categories of conservation concern."
The words of Frank O. Horton spoken in 1923 help us understand what it means to experience the HF Bar Ranch: “Years will have dropped from your shoulders like feathers from a molting hen. And we know you will come back here again.”
“This designation is truly an honor, says Canterbury. I have such respect for the conservation efforts of both women involved in this IBA designation effort and for all the people that preceded them whose lives were tied to this place.”
Cook Ranch, Crook County, January 2023
Located less than a ¼ mile from the Black Hills National Forest, this 1,809-acre property has magnificent and diverse bird habitat in Crook County, Wyoming. Family owned since 1888, locally known as the Cook Ranch, the varied landscapes consist of meadows, mixed grass prairie, Ponderosa Pine forests, birch groves (including paper birch), steep rocky cliffs, canyons, and wooded draws dissected with several springs, wetlands, and seasonally flowing streams. Wild raspberries, strawberries and plums, chokecherries, Oregon grape, and a variety of other flowering plants such as bee balm and coneflowers grow freely. Oak and cottonwood trees are abundant, along with large patches of old growth adding to the wealth of bird habitat.
This active cattle ranch with very little human disturbance practices sound rotational grazing, only late harvest haying is done if at all, and human habitation is limited to a one-acre camp with occasional occupancy. The property borders State and BLM lands and is less than a ¼ mile from the Bear Lodge Mountains in the Black Hills National Forest. Horse Creek originates on this property and feeds into the Belle Fourche River about two miles away.
As a breeding site for many species including Bobolinks, Upland Sandpipers, American Redstarts, Lark Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Mountain and Eastern Bluebirds, and essential to large numbers of migrant species, this richly diverse property is by all definitions an important bird area. Nominated by Deane Bjerke, JoAnne Puckett on behalf of the Bighorn Audubon Society, and Dennis Knight
Tom Balding Property, Sheridan County, approved by Bighorn Audubon, January 2023
A 45 acre site encompassing a healthy restored riparian area along a mile of Prairie Dog Creek, which meanders through the center of property. The area provides excellent habitat for a variety of birds which are abundant in the area from spring through the fall. Monthly observations in 2022 from February through October identified 81 species of birds. (See attached list) There is a 2.9 mile trail along the creek and around the property that is open to the public. The habitat on the property consists of a decidous forest of trees along the creek and around the property, the tree species includes: Green Ash, Box Elder, Golden Willow and Silver Poplar; Less Dominant trees include: Diamond Bark Willow, Plains Cottonwood, River Birch, Apple,Peach Leaf Willow and Red Bark Willow. The site has abundant shrubs and bushes which include: Chokecherry, Hawthorne, Wild Plum, Red Dogwood, Virginia Creeper,Western Snowberry, Gooseberry, Silver Sagebrush, White Sagebrush, Silver Buffaloberry or Nanny Berry, Hemp Dogbane and Wild Hops. Flowers are also abundant and include: Wild roses, Milkweed, Sweet Rocket, Liatris, Clematis, Yarrow, Golden Rod and Wild Licorice. The predominate grass on the property is Smooth Brome but some native grasses are present. A few acres of alfalfa are grown which are harvested later in the season to allow birds to fledge. Small patches of invasive plants or grasses include cheatgrass and tansy.
IBAs within the Bighorn Audubon Chapter, recognized prior to 2015:
Tensleep Preserve, Washakie County (10.1k acres)
Site ID: 2694
Download Site Report: View
Thunder Basin National Grasslands Complex (3 IBAs). The Grasslands are located in parts of Weston, Converse, Campbell, Niobrara, and Crook Counties.
Site ID: 3530
Download Site Report: View
Wolf Creek Ranch, Sheridan County (18.1k acres)
Site ID: 886
Download Site Report: View
Yellowtail Wildlife Management Area, Big Horn County (17.7k acres)
Site ID: 884
Download Site Report: View
Important Bird Area Articles:
Two New Important Bird Areas Near Sheridan
By Dr. Jackie Canterbury & Christina Schmidt
Bighorn Audubon Society helped designate the Amsden and Kerns Wildlife Habitat Management Areas READ ARTICLE
Important Bird Areas Falxa Ranch Designated an Important Bird Area
By Dr. Jackie Canterbury
An Audubon chapter explores important sagebrush-steppe habitat. READ ARTICLE