mbdw̲atchlist.pdf. What is the WatchList? The Partners in FlightWatchList was introduced in 1996 to draw attention to those species of migratory birds in the United States that are most in need of conservation action. The WatchList does not include federally threatened or endangered species. Rather, it identifies those species that are still fairly common, but that—without proper attention—will probably someday occupy an unenviable place on the endangered species list. The species on the 1998-1999 WatchList are those that have declined precipitously over the past several decades, occupy habitats that are under severe threat, are found in low numbers, or have such narrowly restricted ranges that their existence is tenuous. Why is Preventing Species from Becoming Endangered So Important? There are three main reasons why we should strive to keep species from declining to the point that they become endangered. First, migratory birds play important roles in maintaining the health of the environment. From insect pest control, to plant pollinators and seed disperers, to critical links in the food web, birds help keep ecosystems functioning in a balanced manner. Second, healthy bird populations account for massive economic benefits to society, both directly and indirectly. For example, forest birds control leaf-damaging insect populations on marketable trees, thereby directly preventing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses of natural resources. In addition, migratory birds are one of the greatest tourist and backyard attractions in North America. Birdwatchers and other wildlife watchers contribute $29 billion to the economy of the United States each year simply for the pleasure of observing these winged wonders. Finally, to recover a species once it becomes endangered is very expensive compared to what it takes to keep healthy bird populations…healthy. Endangered species also have been seen by some as disruptive to certain land uses. In contrast, land use plans that already inco.