What is a Joint Venture?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service definition for a joint venture is “a self-directed partnership of agencies, organizations, corporations, tribes, or individuals that has formally accepted the responsibility of implementing national or international bird conservation plans within a specific geographic area or for a specific taxonomic group, and has received general acceptance in the bird conservation community for such responsibility”. Working both collectively and independently, JV partners conduct activities in support of bird conservation goals cooperatively developed by the partnership. There are 18 habitat JVs in the nation today, and JVs are recognized as the standard for effective, science-based delivery of bird conservation through partnerships.
Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Region JV
At over 240 million acres (97 million ha) the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (UMRGLRJV) is one of the largest and most diverse JV regions in the U. S. The UMRGLRJV administrative region has been largely unchanged since 1998, encompassing all or portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The majority of the UMRGLRJV is contained within three Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs): BCR 12 – the “Boreal Hardwood Transition”, BCR 23 – the “Prairie Hardwood Transition”, and BCR 22 – the “Eastern Tallgrass Prairie”. Collectively, these three BCRs make up more than 93% of the JV region. Small portions of BCR 24 - the “Central Hardwoods” and BCR 13- the “Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain” also occur on the southern and eastern periphery of the JV.
As the name suggests, the UMRGLRJV contains all or part of four of the Great Lakes. Most of the land within the UMRGLRJV is currently utilized for crop production (39% of JV). “Forest” communities, which include deciduous and evergreen forests, woodlands, savannas, and shrublands make up 26% of the JV land area, followed by grasslands/pastures (18%), inland water and wetlands (10%) and developed land (9%). The bird species that occur in the UMRGLRJV are as diverse as the natural communities contained within it: Colonial waterbirds breed along the shores of the Great Lakes, and breeding warblers spend their summers in the boreal forests of the northern portion of BCR 12. Waterfowl nest in the many scattered, small wetlands throughout BCRs 12 and 23, in numbers sometimes second only to the “duck factory” of the Prairie Pothole region to the west. Grassland birds still persist in the increasingly small and scattered prairie remnants throughout BCR 22, and the JV contains one of the last strongholds of tallgrass prairie on the continent in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Nebraska. Southern bird species become locally common in forest fragments in BCRs 24. Huge numbers of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds also pass through the JV each spring and fall, especially along the wetlands associated with the Mississippi River.
The term “joint venture” comes from the business world, and typically refers to short-term, strategic alliances between business partners. When the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) was developed in 1986 to guide the recovery of declining continental waterfowl populations, “joint ventures” were described as regional partnerships of conservation organizations that would be required to deliver NAWMP objectives. JVs were designated to formalize this concept. The subsequent recovery of many waterfowl populations is a testament to the effectiveness of this approach.
The original Implementation Plan for the UMRGLRJV was finalized in 1993 and updated in 1998. At that time JV partners mutually agreed to safeguard the waterfowl habitats of the nation's only inland coastal area – the Great Lakes – plus interior wetlands, including the floodplains of four of the country's major river systems – the lower Missouri, upper Mississippi, the Illinois, and Ohio. JV habitat conservation objectives included protection, restoration, and enhancement of 590,000 acres of waterfowl breeding habitat and 165,000 acres of migration habitat.
The 1998 JV update also included provisions for protecting or increasing habitat for upland wildlife species that are associated with wetland habitats, and that of declining non-waterfowl migratory birds, as long as the efforts were consistent with waterfowl objectives.
Building on the successes of NAWMP, continental conservation plans were developed for landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds (colonial nesting waterbirds, wading birds and secretive marsh birds), and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) evolved to help provide coordination between continental plans.
In the spirit of cooperation and partnership, the UMRGLRJV Management Board pledged in a 2001 Resolution to conduct all-bird conservation, accommodating other bird groups while implementing the NAWMP. The UMRGLRJV Landbird, Shorebird, Waterfowl, and Waterbird Habitat Conservation Strategies, completed in 2007, outline our shared goals and commitment to all-bird habitat conservation.