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The Blackfoot Valley Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction: A Chronology and Case Study

by Ferrasci-O'Malley, Brian Kevin

Abstract (Summary)
Since 2003, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) personnel have been working together with state and local officials to reintroduce a viable population of trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) to wetlands in the Blackfoot River Valley of western Montana. I had the great opportunity to be involved with this project while completing a Masters in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. During the time I was involved, we conducted a habitat analysis, worked to prepare wetlands for swan use, released the first cohort of reintroduced trumpeter swans in the Blackfoot Valley, and tracked their movements until they left for winter. While the long-term viability of the trumpeter swan population in the Blackfoot cannot be known at such an early point in the effort, the return of some of the first-year birds to their release wetland the following spring has members of the reintroduction team excited for the possibility of continued success of subsequent yearly reintroductions and achievement of the final goal of a viable breeding population of trumpeter swans in the Blackfoot Valley. The purpose of this professional paper is to provide a detailed chronological case history of the first year of the trumpeter swan reintroduction program in the Blackfoot Valley of western Montana, and summarize the key lessons learned while making recommendations for how the process could be improved. I plan to illustrate the processes undertaken by the different partners involved that are currently making the Blackfoot trumpeter swan reintroduction project a successful endeavor. Then, by analyzing what worked well and what did not work well in the Blackfoot reintroduction process, I will attempt to draw conclusions and make recommendations as to how other groups interested in similar reintroductions could learn from our experience in the Blackfoot Valley. Therefore, the target audience for this professional paper is twofold. On the one hand, this professional paper will be helpful to community-based conservation groups that have a demonstrated desire and/or ability to see trumpeter swans, as well as other threatened or extirpated species, return to a part of their historical habitat range. This professional paper will also be beneficial to state and federal wildlife agencies on the local or watershed level, as a tool to compare and contrast management decisions concerning the reintroduction of birds like the trumpeter swan. This professional paper will not be organized in the traditional scientific style of sectioning the report into Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusions sections. In order to provide a popular audience with a general understanding of the process that was undertaken in the Blackfoot Valley, I use a chronological presentation of the steps of the reintroduction process. Thus, there will be descriptions of methods used at various points throughout the professional paper. However, this professional paper is structured so that the conclusions and recommendations from the entire project will be summarized and discussed at the end of each chapter in order to highlight the lessons learned from the process. In creating a final product out of the experience of my graduate work on the trumpeter swan reintroduction in the Blackfoot Valley, I wanted to produce something that I felt was representative of all aspects of the experience. What started as a summer of field research grew over the next two years to become a unique case study of local partnerships and collaboration leading to on-the-ground conservation. I wanted to discuss the scientific study we completed to determine whether or not there was suitable habitat for the trumpeter swans in the Blackfoot, but I also wanted to provide a narrative of the experience of what it took to go from that study through to the eventual release of the first cohort of birds and beyond. I hope that the experience in the Blackfoot Valley can serve as a model for reintroductions as a form of community-based conservation in Montana, and across the Inter Mountain West.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr. Vicki Watson; Dr. Len Broberg; Dr. Richard Harris; Dr. Michael Patterson

School:The University of Montana

School Location:USA - Montana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental studies

ISBN:

Date of Publication:10/01/2008

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