Introducing the Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative!

North America’s native grasslands have suffered the most intense impact by humans of any of the country’s terrestrial ecosystems, resulting in grassland birds experiencing a steeper decline than any other guild of birds. Remaining grassland birds have now adapted to using hayfields and pasturelands as surrogate habitat—an ecological trap under the wrong conditions or a unique opportunity for conservation under the right conditions.

Research has demonstrated that implementing a specific suite of best management practices on agricultural land can actually benefit grassland birds, as well as restore ecosystem functionality to those working landscapes. With the majority of remaining grasslands in Virginia currently held in private hands and under agricultural use, both farmers and their working landscapes have become instrumental in the future of grassland bird conservation.

In response, The Piedmont Environmental Council and the Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes launched the Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative (VGBI) to address grassland bird decline on working lands in the Virginia Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley. American Farmland Trust and Quail Forever have joined as lead collaborators, bringing with them their respective expertise in conservation messaging and technical assistance on working landscapes. Together, we partner with landowners and producers in 16 counties to restore grassland habitat for the benefit of birds and farms.

VGBI Conservation Goals

  • Raise awareness about the plight of grassland birds
  • Identify science-based best management practices that benefit grassland birds, landscape resiliency, and farmers
  • Assist producers and landowners in adopting bird-friendly practices
  • Unify messaging across regional conservation practitioners
  • Create opportunities for training and dissemination of knowledge
  • Place Virginia on the map as a nationally-recognized bird conservation region