The IBA concept was developed by BirdLife International in England in 1985 as a model for bird conservation. By 2000, BirdLife and its European partners identified 3,400 IBA sites in Europe. In 1995, BirdLife partnered with the American Bird Conservancy and the National Audubon Society to launch the IBA Program in the United States. To date, IBA Programs have been started in 156 countries and in 46 states with 1500 nominated IBAs throughout the U.S. In 2000, Mass Audubon launched this initiative for the Commonwealth.
The IBA nomination process ended in December 2002. As a result of the hard work of Mass Audubon's IBA staff and the volunteer technical committee, 79 sites in Massachusetts were approved. Mass Audubon is currently working cooperatively with interested parties to develop conservation plans for future habitat management on designated sites. In some cases, efforts will be made to include IBAs in the state's open space planning program. In other cases conservation easements or a modification in land management practices may be recommended. The primary objective will be to facilitate whatever strategy works best for the site as well as to ensure the future protection of the site as an Important Bird Area.