Senate Committee Passes Bill to Conserve Rapidly Disappearing Migratory Birds

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed S. 690, which reauthorizes the existing Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) at significantly higher levels to meet the growing needs of our migrant birds, many of which are in rapid decline. Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a frequent critic of providing more government funding for conservation programs raised an objection to the higher authorization levels in the bill. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Michael Crapo (R-ID), now moves to debate in the full Senate. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

 

“We applaud the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for its action, and we urge the House to move their bill forward soon. This legislation is urgently needed to help America’s diminishing native bird populations,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation Advocacy. “Nearly half of our songbirds are now in decline or facing serious threats; effective conservation projects can help us to start turning that around.”

 

NMBCA supports partnership programs to conserve 341 species of migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean, where approximately five billion birds of over 500 species, including some of the most endangered birds in North America, spend their winters. Projects include habitat restoration, research and monitoring, law enforcement, and outreach and education. Between 2002 and 2008, the program supported 260 projects coordinated by partners in 48 U.S. states/territories and 36 countries. Projects involving land conservation have affected approximately three million acres of bird habitat.

 

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service receives many more requests for high quality conservation projects than it can fund at current maximum authorization levels, set by Congress at $6 million per year. Under the new law, that amount could increase to $20 million by 2015. Grants require matching funds from other, non-federal sources at a ratio of at least 3:1. Thus far, more than $21 million from NMBCA grants has leveraged over $95 million in partner contributions.

 

Citizens are encouraged to contact their Senators asking them to support the bill. You can visit http://www.abcbirds.org/action to send letters today. A brief video about the program can viewed on American Bird Conservancy’s YouTube Channel.