In late 2011, a law change in Nevada made it legal for any citizen to remove hollow PVC pipes used as mining claim markers on public land. The change came in response to an astonishing number of dead birds and other wildlife found within uncapped pipes, which TWS reported in the November 2011 issue of Wildlife Policy News. Small species of birds in particular are attracted to the pipes as potential nesting sites, but once inside are unable to escape the smooth walls inside the pipes and eventually die of starvation or dehydration. In January 2012, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) called for federal action to update standards for mining claim pipes to prevent bird deaths, citing the mandate for agencies to uphold the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by addressing this threat to migratory bird species. Some birds found in the pipes are species whose numbers are in decline already.
Now, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), and ABC are partnering to identify and implement solutions. The BLM is currently drafting a policy to address this issue and including the topic in its draft Migratory Bird Strategy. The BLM’s Washington office is urging all states to use partnerships and available funds to discover, then cap, fill, or pull pipes–a call to action that the California BLM office is actively implementing through public outreach. In 2010, over 3 million mining claims were on record on BLM-managed lands in 12 western states. With pipe pulling efforts showing an average of 1 bird death per pipe, the pipes could be responsible for millions of bird deaths to date. The BLM, USFS, and ABC have agreed to meet again in early summer after various approaches have been reviewed.
Want to get involved? The Nevada Department of Wildlife and the International Conservation Volunteer Exchange are seeking volunteers to participate in mining claim pipe removal efforts, with daily food per diem and housing provided. Click here for more information.