WASHINGTON – A bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to help sustain populations of migratory birds like the Baltimore oriole that face threats to their health and habitats, was approved Tuesday by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act (S. 1537), 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. The bill furthers investment in critical conservation programs that have demonstrated marked successes through public-private partnerships and innovative granting and conservation strategies.
“Sustaining healthy populations of migratory birds is not only good for the birds, but critical to our farmers who benefit as these transitory populations consume 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.”
Senator Cardin partnered with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and defender of the Ohio’s state bird, the northern cardinal. The legislation also was cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
“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 Senator Cardin and my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to protect and conserve these bird populations so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. I applaud the committee for approving this legislation and urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.”
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.
The Baltimore oriole, whose song and orange plumage brightens all of the Northeastern U.S., has steadily declined in population despite its legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the state of Maryland’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Threats to these beloved Maryland birds are mainly due to habitat destruction and deforestation, particularly in the Central and South American countries where the birds winter. In addition, international use of toxic pesticides ingested by insects, which are then eaten by the birds, has significantly contributed to this decline. Conservation efforts in our country are essential, but investment in programs throughout the migratory route of these and countless other migratory birds is critical. This bill accomplishes this goal.
Since 2002, more than $66 million in grants have been awarded, supporting 570 projects in 36 countries. Partners have contributed an additional $250 million, and more than 4.5 million acres of habitat have been improved. In 2018, more than $3.8 million in federal funds will be matched by more than $14.2 million in partner contributions going to 29 collaborative conservation projects in 16 countries across the Americas.