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Natural resources management and the bird aircraft strike hazard at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts

  • Author(s): Rossi-Linderme, Gina
  • Hoppy, Brian K.
  • et al.
Abstract

Bird-Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) reduction strategies at Westover Air Reserve Base (ARB) conflict with recommended habitat management strategies for two state-listed grassland bird species that inhabit the Base-the upland sandpiper (Bartramia longcauda) and the grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) . Westover ARB contains the largest contiguous grassland habitat in the New England region, comprising 1,600 acres that surround the airfield. Annual breeding surveys, emphasizing the upland sandpiper and grasshopper sparrow, began in 1986. Initial surveys revealed that the implementation of habitat management suggestions provided by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW) resulted in a rapid rise in specie population levels. More recent surveys suggest that population levels stabilized as the habitat reached carrying capacity. State habitat management guidelines recommend prohibition of pedestrian and vehicle movement through the breeding grounds from April 20 through August 1. These guidelines conflict with U.S. Air Force (USAF) BASH reduction guidelines, which require mowing to reduce the attractiveness of the airfield to the overall grassland bird population. Conflict resolution efforts involving the installation, the USAF BASH Team, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, and the MDFW have produced limited success. However, an airfield Vegetation Management Plan has been developed in conjunction with these agencies to reduce the attractiveness of the grassland habitat to species that pose the greatest threat to aircraft safety (e.g., wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and gulls). Westover ARB personnel continuously monitor and modify management practices to reduce the BASH threat and also to maintain suitable habitat for sensitive grassland bird species on the Base.

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