About Us

Friends of the Washington County Grasslands IBA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust working to conserve critical habitat for New York's endangered, threatened and at-risk grassland birds.  Our land and Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland Bird Viewing Area, picture below, are located in Fort Edward, NY.  FIBA's annual Winter Raptor Fest event educates youth and adults about native raptors and generates support for our efforts to conserve their habitat. Owl Watches, Guided Walks and Tours offer residents and visitors the chance to see and explore this special place - and perhaps encounter some of these amazing birds for themselves!
Laurie LaFond founded Friends of the IBA in 2010 with a vision of restoring nesting populations of state endangered Short-eared owls to the area. We received nonprofit status from the IRS in 2011.  FIBA is a proud member of the Land Trust Alliance.

CONSERVATION - Birds at Risk!

The Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA), is critical to the survival of Short-eared owls in New York State! Friends of the IBA owns 14 acres of critical habitat in the heart of the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) and holds a conservation agreement on another 50 acres adjacent to it. The site is managed for grassland birds, with public access provided through our Alfred Z. Solomon Grassland Bird Viewing Area. We are working to permanently protect more critical lands in the IBA for the owls and other at risk grassland birds, but development pressure is high.

We need your support to seize opportunities to conserve hundreds more acres before they are lost forever!   
(see Community Partnerships below...)

Vision:  Friends of the IBA envisions a resilient landscape of conserved grasslands across New York State teeming with healthy populations of our native grassland birds. People of all ages and abilities will visit these protected grasslands to experience the wonder of nature: a flock of Short-eared owls flying low, over uncut fields lit by sunset's glow… a Northern harrier gliding by… an Eastern meadowlark’s flute-like cry...  (Laurie LaFond 2015)

The Washington County Grasslands supports 10 species of endangered, threatened and rapidly declining grassland birds, including: Short-eared owls (endangered), Northern harriers (threatened), Upland sandpipers (threatened), Horned larks (threatened), Eastern meadowlarks (special concern), American kestrels (special concern), Vesper sparrows, Grasshopper sparrows and Sedge wrens. The area also supports breeding populations of Bobolinks and Savannah sparrows, as well as dozens of other bird species - over 200 in all! 

Conservation and Education remain top priorities as we work to protect New York's imperiled grassland birds! 

EDUCATION - Events and Outreach
Friends of the IBA's annual WINTER RAPTOR FEST features exciting educational Live Bird of Prey programs that introduce residents and visitors to native owls, hawks and falcons. People of all ages flock to the event to see and learn about the endangered, threatened and at-risk birds of the Washington County Grasslands. Flight demos by Master Falconers, exhibitors, kids' activities, vendors and more round out this fun and exciting weekend where Raptors Rule!  
learn more at:  http://www.winterraptorfest.com/
Winter Raptor Fest helps support FIBA's programs and conservation work throughout the year!
FIBA's Youth Programs teach kids about the birds and their habitats... sponsored by Stewarts Shops
Friends of the IBA's Education Committee offers programs and activities for schools, summer camps and other youth groups. We work with educators to provide environmental education and/ or field trips to the Washington County Grasslands so kids can get outside and experience the birds in their natural habitat!  
Contact:  Education Chair Ron Renoni at (518) 692-2493 if you are interested in learning more or would like to help.  

Photos: top: WRF 2016 - Adirondack Raptors, courtesy Connie Bush; bottom:  WRF 2015 - Raptor Photo Booth, courtesy Cliff Oliver

FIELD TRIPS, walks, tours, workshops and more... what are you waiting for?
Friends of the IBA field trips and owl watches let you get out in the field to see this unique grasslands habitat and its amazing birds for themselves!  
Our knowledgeable guides love to bird and explore, and they know where the birds are!  Winter brings Short-eared owls, Rough-legged hawks, Northern harriers and flocks of Snow Buntings and Horned larks; Snowy owls often pay a visit. Spring and summer bring terrific sightings of Bobolinks, bluebirds, meadowlarks, kestrels, hawks, harriers, Savannah and Grasshopper sparrows and dozens of other bird species!  
Left to right: 1) Wintering raptors with Adirondack Mountain Club; 2) Girl Scouts check out owls and winter songbirds on the Pulver property; 3) Kestrel release and nest box workshop - AZS/Loftus

Community Partnerships
Collaborations with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and local landowners are helping FIBA conserve critical habitat. DEC has permanently protected 286 acres of prime habitat in the heart of the Washington County Grasslands IBA. Friends of the IBA has been working with a local municipality and landowner to assist NYS DEC's next acquisition of 180 acres from a willing landowner. We are also working on our next land acquisition and expect to receive state funding for part of the purchase.
NRCS Greenwich Office reports, “as a result of Winter Raptor Fest, 4 landowners signed up … 390  acres” (in conservation contracts). One of the landowners will manage their land solely for wildlife.
Collaborations with Live Bird of Prey educators from Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehab Center, Adirondack Raptors, North Country Wild Care, New York State Wildlife Rehab Council, The Wildlife Institute of Eastern NY and Vermont Institute of Natural Science have helped Friends of the IBA spread our message to more than 25,000 people through our events and programs since August 2010.


Friends of the IBA is working with interested landowners, nonprofits and state and federal agencies to conserve and permanently protect critical habitat for New York's endangered and threatened grassland birds so we can restore populations to sustainable levels. We plan to expand grassland habitat conservation protection across New York State as we achieve our goals in the Washington County Grasslands... 

Friends of the IBA's planned eco-friendly Grassland Bird Center will allow us to expand grassland bird education and conservation programs and activities and offer more recreational opportunities to the public.  It will serve as a focus of bird and nature-related tourism in the region, improving the quality of life for local residents while retaining the rural character of the community.  

Special thanks to New York State Canal Corp., Lakes to Locks Passage, Town of Fort Edward, Town and Village of Whitehall and Washington County for their support and assistance!

Please support the Friends of the IBA with a secure donation via Paypal or mail us at:
Friends of the IBA, P.O. Box 82, Fort Edward, NY 12828.  
Your donation supports Friends of the IBA work to protect New York's endangered, threatened and at-risk birds. With your help we will conserve critical habitat in the Washington County Grasslands IBA and other areas of the state for the birds and future generations to enjoy!