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Bird Law

Legislation Introduced to Conserve Rapidly Disappearing Migratory Birds

(Washington, D.C. – April 14, 2008) Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) have introduced legislation to fund efforts to help protect migratory birds. The act, H.R. 5756, reauthorizes the existing Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), but at significantly higher levels, to meet the growing needs of our migrants, many of which are in rapid decline.

“The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act has a proven track record of reversing habitat loss and advancing conservation strategies for the broad range of Neotropical birds that populate America and the western hemisphere,” Rep. Kind said. “The public-private partnerships along with the international collaboration it provides are integral to preserving vulnerable bird populations. Expanding this program is vital to achieving conservation goals critical to our environment and economy.”NMBCA supports partnership programs to conserve 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 activities that benefit bird populations such as habitat restoration, research and monitoring, law enforcement, and outreach and education. Between 2002 and 2007, the program supported 225 projects, coordinated by partners in 44 U.S. states/territories and 34 countries. More than $21 million from NMBCA grants has leveraged over $95 million in partner contributions. Projects involving land conservation have affected about 3 million acres of bird habitat.

“By passing this legislation we can help prevent America’s native birds from disappearing,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird Conservancy’s Executive Director of Conservation Advocacy. “Nearly half of our songbird population is now in decline or facing serious threats; the good news is that it isn’t too late to turn that around.” NMBCA currently provides a maximum authorization of $6 million per year; last year Congress appropriated $4.5 million, a $500 thousand increase from the previous year. Under the new law, that amount would increase to $20 million by 2015. Grants require matching funds from other non-federal sources, and are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Agency staff report that they currently receive many more requests for high quality conservation projects than they can currently provide grants for. FWS lists 341 bird species as Neotropical migrants: http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NMBCA/BirdList.shtm

“The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act is helping ensure that shorebirds and songbirds that migrate through Maryland have healthy and abundant habitat so they can keep returning here each year,” said Rep. Gilchrest. “Just as importantly, this federal program is a good value for taxpayers, leveraging over four dollars in partner contributions for every one that we spend.”Of the 178 continental bird species included on the American Bird Conservancy/Audubon WatchList of birds of highest conservation concern, over one-third, 69 species, are Neotropical migrants. At least 29 species of these migratory birds are experiencing significant population declines. Several species, the Cerulean Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher, have declined as much as 70% since surveys began in the 1960s.

“Over the years I became aware that I was not only seeing fewer species, but also fewer total numbers of birds,” said Barth Schorre, a nature photographer who from 1977 to 2004 observed spring migrants at a single 3.5 acre site in south Texas. “Looking back through my log books I can see that on a typical spring day in the 1980s, a list of migrant species filled a page to overflowing. More recently I am logging the observations of three or four days on a single page.”

4th July 2014