Birding trails helping to encourage tourism, conservation

Workshop in Traverse City on Feb. 24 will explain how to create, manage and market a trail.

Birding is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreation activities in the nation. Since the 1970s the percentage of American’s who intentionally view, identify and photograph birds has doubled. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife report released in 2011, there are nearly 47 million birders in the U.S., or nearly 20 percent of the population. Birders generate an estimated annual industry economic output of 107 billion dollars, according to a national study. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” The state of Michigan is well poised to capture an increasing amount of birding tourism thanks to the diverse habitat and large diversity of species that can be found here. Since 2011, a number of birding trails have been created in the state of Michigan to help birders appreciate and enjoy the many opportunities found within the state.

Birding trails are driving trails that point out public access lands, such as state parks and conservancy lands, that are good places to watch birds. Paper maps along with interactive websites point out unique species as well as places of high diversity, along with tips for lodging, dining and other sightseeing in the area. The trails created in Michigan have all been grassroots efforts created by a variety of organizations and individuals to help generate additional tourism, point out important habitats for conservation, and to share a love of local birding spots.

To help those who are seeking to create new birding trails, as well as to help increase partnerships and coordination between existing birding trails, the Michigan Audubon Society in partnership with Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant , are hosting a daylong workshop. This workshop will take place 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Boardman Nature Center in Traverse City. The workshop will include speakers from the state Department of Natural Resources, National Audubon Society, Pure Michigan, as well as Michigan Sea Grant and the Michigan Audubon Society. Topics covered throughout the day will include how to create a birding trail, how to use trails for conservation work, and how to market a trail. There also will be an interactive planning session on how to increase the visibility of Michigan as one of the best birding locations in the world.

The workshop is free and open to all. Anyone who has an interest in birding trails, local tourism, bird conservation or just birding in general is encouraged to attend. Registration for the event is online and located at the following link:

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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