Nicolás Marchand, Ph.D.
Ranching and Shorebird Conservation Specialist
The Second Lagoon Ranchers Gathering took place on October 7-8 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Participants included key partner organization representatives and more than 60 ranchers that are members of a growing network of Uruguay´s Coastal Lagoons Landowners. These landowners represent a potential landscape of about 1 million hectares of suitable grassland shorebird habitat and are interested in both improving sustainable livestock production systems and securing and enhancing habitat for shorebirds.
The first part of the gathering was organized to showcase some examples of 20 on-the-ground farm management projects that have already been implemented since the initial ideas were presented and discussed during the First Annual Lagoon Ranchers Gathering last October. Farm management projects to integrate both cattle production and shorebird habitat management were presented by ranchers themselves, assisted by Manomet staff. In many cases, these presentations included the younger generation of farmers who are starting to take over the management of their family ranches and have shown great pride and motivation for integrating conservation practices into their organizational operations.
During the second part of the event, attendees listened to specific presentations on how livestock production and shorebird conservation can work to benefit both ranchers and shorebirds. Those included Uruguay´s Plan Agropecuario (Agricultural Plan), a National Extension Agency which included a “Grass Management Project within the Lagoon Landscape”; the office of the Ministry of Agriculture, who highlighted a suite of 12 agro-ecological transitioning projects to support lagoon ranchers; and the Ministry of Environment in Uruguay, which has funded seven concrete action steps to support biodiversity conservation in lagoon ranches. The Manomet team shared information about tracking shorebird migrations, and how the coastal lagoon area is so important in sustaining the shorebird population. In sharing the migration information, the team made the connection between a shorebird population and the health of a landscape, as well as stressing that shorebirds are a connection point between diverse people and cultures.
The second day of the event incorporated a field trip, where we visited a local ranch in Rocha Lagoon, to see (and discuss) first-hand some newly-implemented ranch management practices supported in part by some dedicated funding sources including NMBCA, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment and Plan Agropecuario. That funding has helped support increased livestock and paddock management, as well as the development of a beautiful birding trail and refuge for bird observation along the lagoon. Tourists and visitors enjoy the trail at a small cost, the proceeds of which currently complement the family ranch income. These innovations to land management have greatly interested ranchers, and have served as inspiration to develop more innovative ways to integrate productive cattle ranching and shorebird habitat management on this 1 million hectare coastal lagoon area – home to over 350 species of birds – well into the future.