Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Terms of Reference

WHSRN Hemispheric Council

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) was established in 1985 and today serves as a voluntary, non-regulatory coalition of individuals, organizations, corporations and governments.


WHSRN’s mission is the conservation of shorebird species and their habitats across the Americas through a network of key sites.


Sites in sufficient number, quality, and location are designated and managed to sustain all native shorebird species and their current populations throughout the Americas.

Purpose of these Terms of Reference

In 2004, WHSRN adopted a 5-year Strategic Plan (2004-2008) to invigorate WHSRN and make it as powerful as possible.  That Plan establishes a structure through which leadership of WHSRN is implemented at several scales.  The WHSRN Hemispheric Council is the body ultimately responsible for the entire Network and matters affecting the WHSRN program as a whole.  This document serves to further define the functioning of the Hemispheric Council.

Background, taken from the 2004-2008 Strategic Plan

“The Hemispheric Council acts as ‘the keeper of the program; The Hemispheric Council is responsible for the overall direction and well-being of WHSRN and its progress in achieving its mission and vision.   As a result, the Hemispheric Council oversees the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans.  The Council is broadly representative of each of the major geographic regions in which the Network operates, and may include representation from groups elsewhere, such as the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network, with shared interests and shorebirds.   The Council is chaired by one of its own members, elected by the Council, and it may establish other offices, such as Vice-Chair and Corresponding Secretary.  The Hemispheric Council may create an Executive Committee and/or other committees as needed.

“To ensure the effectiveness of the Network, most members of the Hemispheric Council are drawn from the highest levels of governments and influential bodies of their respective regions.  Members of the Hemispheric Council ensure that funds are available for core WHSRN activities as well as those associated with the strategic plan.  Thus, membership on the Hemispheric Council generally carries a direct obligation to support the Network’s core functions financially. Nonetheless, no otherwise qualified Hemispheric Council candidate will be rejected because of an inability to make a financial contribution.

Roles and Responsibilities, taken from the 2004-2008 Strategic Plan

The Hemispheric Council has:

  1. Programmatic responsibilities including
    • identifying hemispheric challenges to shorebird conservation;
    • developing and approving the WHSRN strategic plan and keeping it current;
    • collaborating with the Network and Executive Office to establish work programs appropriate to implementing the Network’s strategic plan;
    • maintaining communication with appropriate existing shorebird conservation efforts at various spatial scales or levels of organization
    • Coordinating with the International Councils and integration of their work programs;
    • ensuring communication, coordination, and sharing of accomplishments among Members and Partners;
    • identifying opportunities for collaboration within the Network and with related groups, including other NGOs, Important Bird Area programs, and Conventions such as Ramsar and the Convention on Migratory Species; and
    • assessing the status and effectiveness of the Network.
  2. Financial and fiduciary responsibilities including
    • approving the operating budget for the WHSRN Executive Office in collaboration with Manomet;
    • identifying both financial needs and potential sources for the Network;
    • providing significant direct contribution to Network core operations; and
    • raising additional funds for Network’s core operations and conservation activities;
  3. Administrative responsibilities including
    • acting on new site nominations based on recommendations of SAC and appropriate Network Councils;
    • recognizing the WHSRN International and National Councils for each region/country;
    • confirming appointments to the Scientific Advisory Committee including chair of that body, based on National/International Council recommendations; and
    • organizing Hemispheric Council meetings with support of the Executive Office.


The Hemispheric Council’s members are representatives of Network Partners and Site Partners, and of any National or International WHSRN Councils that have been created.  There is no current limit set on the size of the Council, nor on the terms of office of members.  Where members represent organizational partners of WHSRN, it is understood that the seats are those of the organization and not the individual.

Some members may be designated as Councilors emeriti, and their seats on Council are for life.  The Hemispheric Council decides to whom such emerituspositions are offered.

The following groups are represented on Council:

  • Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
  • BirdLife International
  • Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Manomet
  • Pronatura (Mexico) 
  • Ramsar Convention Bureau
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • US Forest Service
  • Wetlands International — EASSN

Additionally, Canada and the United States currently have national councils (with representatives) in place.  Mexico and Argentina have been invited to form Councils.

The Hemispheric Council is lead by a Chair who has a renewable three-year term.  An Executive Committee with broad geographic representation serves to provide day-to-day implementation of the broader directives of the entire Council.  The Executive Committee generally meets through tele-conferences, on an as-needed basis, coordinated through the WHSRN Executive Office.

Meetings and decision-making
“The Hemispheric Council conducts its routine business through electronic communication (e-mail, fax, and teleconferencing, for instance) whenever possible to avoid the great expense of travel to meetings across such an enormous geography.  Face-to-face meetings remain irreplaceable, however, and are scheduled at least biennially, coinciding with related international meetings whenever possible.” [Taken from 2004-2008 Strategic Plan]

Councilors are generally responsible for their own travel and other costs to attend WHSRN meetings though when a member’s participation is hampered by the expense, alternatives may be found.

The Hemispheric Council will strive to achieve consensus to the greatest extent possible in its decisions and recommendations for action.

Council meetings are generally conducted in English and every effort is made to accommodate the needs of those for whom this is not a native language.

When asked to intervene concerning a development or threat that a WHSRN site faces, Council generally prefers to remind decision-makers of the importance of the site, as recognized through the WHSRN designation, and of the commitment that the site’s owners made in becoming a WHSRN site.  Typically, only when WHSRN has new factual information to offer does the Council go beyond this approach.

The WHSRN Executive Office provides support to the Hemispheric Council in keeping with the roles and responsibilities assigned to it in the Strategic Plan.  The Executive Office is a program of Manomet.

Communications and Reporting
Actions of the Hemispheric Council will be reported through the WHSRN website, the electronic newsletter and other venues.  Both the website and the newsletter are produced in Spanish and English.

Wherever possible, the Hemispheric Council seeks the input of interested stakeholders before decisions are made.  This generally takes the form of an announcement of a proposed action, followed by a comment period.