Wetlands of International Importance

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. In 1971, representatives from 18 nations convened in Ramsar, Iran to encourage the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world. It is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem and covers all geographic regions of the planet. The United States presently has 34 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, including Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira. The two sites in Kansas, because of this sharing of habitat, often host over 90% of the world’s population of such species as Stilt Sandpipers and White-rumped Sandpipers, as well as hundreds of thousands of geese and cranes.

Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms is a globally important stopover for thousands of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl; the site also supports other threatened or endangered birds during nesting, staging or wintering periods. Up to 600,000 shorebirds from at least 39 species, concentrate at the site during spring migration. Another 200,000 use the area in autumn. It has been estimated that 45% of all migratory shorebirds nesting in North America stage at Cheyenne Bottoms, including more than 90% of the continent’s populations of Wilson’s Phalarope, Long-billed Dowitcher, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Stilt Sandpiper. The site also provides important staging and nesting areas for waterfowl species including Mallards and Blue-winged Teal. Cheyenne Bottoms is made up of KS Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism’s Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area (19,857 acres) and The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve (7,694 acres).  Open to the public, it is an important area for conservation education, recreation and scientific research.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Quivira represents an excellent example of inland salt marsh, a rare habitat type in the USA’s midwestern region, ranging from high salinity to almost fresh water depending upon varying precipitation and saline inflow from Rattlesnake Creek, resulting from local geological conditions which bring a layer of salt groundwater close to the surface upstream. The salt marshes, interspersed with mixed grass prairie and agricultural fields, provide critical nesting, migration, and wintering habitat for more than 311 bird species and literally millions of individuals. A number of nationally endangered and threatened species are present, including the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Whooping Crane, Least Tern, and Piping Plover. A diversity of habitat is provided by native grass uplands, fresh and saltwater marshes, and salt flats, and the site comprises a major site for migratory birds – because of the sporadic nature of prairie thunderstorms, Quivira complements the nearby Cheyenne Bottoms Ramsar site, such that when one is dry or flooded the other is nearly always suitable for use by shorebirds. A large and growing number of tourists enjoy wildlife observation at the site and the Friends of Quivira volunteer support group organizes many imaginative activities.

World Wetlands Day

February 2nd marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Each year since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general, and the Ramsar Convention in particular.