INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAY MAY 9, 2015
Mr. CARDIN. Today, I rise to speak in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day. Every Spring, water fowl like Canvasback Ducks, Northern Pintails and Golden Eyes, raptors like Sharp Shinned Hawks, Broad Winged Hawks and Kestrels, warblers, buntings, and of course orioles like Maryland’s state bird, the Baltimore Oriole, return North for the Summer to breed, raise hatchlings, and brighten the United State’s wildlife spectrum during the months of Spring and Summer. It’s an exciting time of year for birders and naturalists who enjoy witnessing the annual return of these species from the tropics and who contribute billions of dollars to the outdoor recreation economy on travel and gear to support their passion and interests in the very special bird species who return to the United States every year.
In support of conserving these important migratory bird species, in March I reintroduced legislation to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This bill promotes international cooperation for long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 350 species of neotropical migratory birds, like the Baltimore Oriole. Through its successful competitive, matching grant program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports public-private partnerships in countries mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Up to one quarter of the funds may be awarded for domestic projects.
More than half of the bird species found in the U.S. migrate across our borders and many of these spend winter in Central and South America. This legislation aims to sustain healthy populations of migratory birds that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also help our farmers through consumption of billions of harmful insects and rodent pests each year, providing pollination services, and dispersing seeds. Migratory birds face threats from pesticide pollution, deforestation, sprawl, and invasive species that degrade their habitats in addition to the natural risks of their extended flights. As birds are excellent indicators of an ecosystem’s health, it is troubling that—according to the National Audubon Society—half of all coastal migrating shorebirds, like the Common Tern and Piping Plover, are experiencing dramatic population declines.
The Baltimore Oriole, is a neotropical migratory bird whose song and bright orange and black plumage brightens all of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. each Spring and Summer. Sadly, Baltimore Oriole populations have steadily declined despite legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the state of Maryland’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Likewise, the iconic Red Knot, whose legendary 9,000 mile migration centers on a stopover in the Mid-Atlantic States, is decreasing in population quickly. Threats to these beloved Maryland birds are mainly due to habitat destruction and deforestation, particularly in the Central and South America where the birds winter. In addition, international use of toxic pesticides ingested by insects, which are then eaten by the birds, is significantly contributing to their decline. Conservation efforts in our country is essential, but investment in programs throughout the migratory route of these and hundreds of other migratory bird species is critical.
The goal of International Migratory Bird Day is to raise awareness about the plight of these birds during this special time of year when these birds are returning to the U.S., and my legislation is critical to the conservation of these species..
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. Since 2002, more than $50.1 million in grants have been awarded, supporting 451 projects in 36 countries. Partners have contributed an additional $190.6 million, and more than 3.7 million acres of habitat have been affected. In 2014, the grants totaled $3.6 million, with $12 million in matching funds across 20 countries.
On International Migratory Bird Day 2015, I am working with the sponsors of the Bi-Partisan Sportsmen’s Package (S. 659), and the leadership of the Environment and Public Works Committee to incorporate the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act into this legislation as it moves through committee. While sportsmen do not hunt songbirds, the financial assistance this program provides for habitat conservation provides co-benefits for games domestic species like wild turkey, deer, pheasant, elk and quail and the international investments benefit the conservation of Sandhill Cranes, and migratory waterfowl that are popular game species. The resources of this program also help conserve critical wetland habitat which is incredibly important coastal and freshwater fish species like bass, perch, and sturgeon, as well as both migratory and resident duck and geese species. Incorporation of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act into the Bi-Partisan Sportsmen’s Package would add a new element of game species conservation that will help ensure the presence of important game and fish species for generations of hunters and anglers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
I urge my colleagues to support this simple reauthorization of this cost-effective, budget-friendly program that has been highly successful.