WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have introduced legislation (S. 1537) to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, which would help sustain populations of migratory birds that face threats to their health and habitats. Their bill, reintroduced as the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act, promotes long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 350 species of migratory birds including Maryland’s state bird, the Baltimore oriole, and Ohio’s state bird, the northern cardinal. The bill furthers investment in critical conservation programs that have demonstrated marked successes through public-private partnerships and innovative granting and conservation strategies.
“Our goal is to continue to sustain healthy populations of migratory birds that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also critical to our farmers through consuming billions of harmful insects and rodent pests, pollinating crops, and dispersing seeds,” said Senator Cardin. “This simple legislation reauthorizes a cost-effective, budget-friendly and highly successful federal program to protect birds, including the Baltimore oriole that have seen a steady decline in their populations despite being protected by federal and state laws.”
“Hundreds of bird species migrate through Ohio each year, making Lake Erie one of the most popular destinations for birdwatching,” Senator Portman said. “Birding contributes more than $20 million to Ohio’s tourism industry and attracts visitors from across the world each year. I am proud to work with my colleagues on the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act to protect and conserve these bird populations so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.”
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 economy. Nationwide, bird watchers include more than 47 million Americans who are part of a larger wildlife watching community that spends $30 billion annually.
The S. 1537, Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act, formerly the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, has a proven track record of reversing habitat loss and advancing conservation strategies for the hundreds of species of birds considered neotropical migrants—birds that spend summers in the United States and winter in Latin America.
Since 2002, more than $58.5 million in grants have been awarded, supporting 510 projects in 36 countries. Partners have contributed an additional $222 million, and more than 4.2 million acres of habitat have been improved. In 2016, the grants totaled $4 million, with nearly $17 million in matching funds across 17 countries. However, migratory birds continue to face threats from pesticide pollution, deforestation, sprawl, and invasive species that degrade their habitats.