Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, has introduced a bill to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. More than half of the bird species found in the U.S. migrate across our borders and many of these spend our winter in Central and South America. This bill promotes international cooperation for long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 350 species of neotropical migratory birds. The Cardin bill aims to sustain healthy populations of migratory birds that are central to the $2.7 billion wildlife-watching industry and also help our farmers by consuming billions of harmful insect pests each year.
“Maryland’s beloved Baltimore Oriole has been experiencing a decline in population for years, despite being protected by federal and state laws. We must keep up the fight to protect it and other vulnerable bird populations that face the dangers of pesticide pollution, deforestation, sprawl, and invasive species that threaten their habitat and, ultimately, their survival. Conservation efforts in our country are essential, but we gain dividends from investing in programs throughout the migratory route of these and countless other birds.
“Maryland’s rich natural environment is a lure for millions of nature-friendly tourists and sportsmen each year. Across the country, bird watchers include over 48 million Americans, part of a wildlife watching public that generates at least $2.7 billion annually for the U.S. economy”.
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 the United States and the rest of the Western hemisphere. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has administered these grants to support 422 projects in more than 35 countries. The $46.5 million that this program has provided in grants has leveraged $178.5 million from partners, almost four additional dollars for every one spent. More than 3.25 million acres of quality bird habitat have benefitted.
“Song birds like the Baltimore Oriole are good indicators of a healthy ecosystem. It’s why, for nearly a decade, federal investment in habitat protection, education, research and monitoring of neotropical migratory birds has been vital to the well-being of our ecosystem and our economy. According to the Audubon Society, at least 29 species of migratory birds are experiencing significant population declines,” Senator Cardin added.
Originally authorized in 2000, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act encourages habitat protection, education, researching, monitoring, and capacity-building to provide for the long-term protection of neotropical migratory birds. The program provides grants for projects in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. The matching requirements for the grant program leverages various private funding sources. Up to 25% of the annual grants can be used for projects in the United States.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act was last reauthorized in 2006 to increase the authorization level from $5 million to $6.5 million for Fiscal Years 2006-2010. That $6.5 million is not enough to fund all eligible programs; in the last several years, almost three-quarters of eligible grant proposals have been turned away.