Congressional Budget Delivers Benefits for Birds

Spending Deal Still Leaves Greater Sage-Grouse at Risk

Contact: Jennifer Howard, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., March 22, 2018) The $1.3 trillion spending agreement reached by Congress this week contains good news for birds and bird conservation. Legislators increased funding for State of the Birds activities to $3 million, giving a boost to the conservation of endangered forest birds in Hawaii, including the creation of safe nesting areas. Congress also indicated that funding levels for work to support migratory bird conservation will remain at or be set above 2017 levels.

'I'iwi and other threatened Hawaiian bird species will get a boost under a new Congressional spending deal. (Photo by Robby Kohley)

"This agreement boosts funding for critically endangered birds in Hawaii and supports programs essential to migratory bird conservation," said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Our thanks to Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and to Representatives Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), for their support and leadership to restore State of the Birds funding.”

Other positive steps for birds include preservation of conservation programs supported by the Farm Bill, America's largest single source of conservation on private lands; full funding for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund; and $425 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Greater Sage-Grouse will continue to receive $60 million in conservation funding. However, the species is still exempted from listing under the Endangered Species Act in the new budget agreement — at a time when this iconic species is at greater risk than ever.

"The agreement leaves the Greater Sage-Grouse in peril by eliminating the safety net of the Endangered Species Act,” Holmer said. “Given the renewed threat to priority sagebrush habitat from oil leasing, this rider should be eliminated.”

Forest habitat conservation will see some positive gains under the spending bill. It includes a “fire funding fix” for the U.S. Forest Service, which will prevent over-budget fire-suppression efforts from being funded at the expense of other agencies' conservation projects. It also includes an extension of the Secure Rural Schools program that supports sustainable forest management in Northern Spotted Owl habitat, as well as rural development and restoration. However, the bill also features provisions weakening the protection of endangered species in federal forests by allowing development projects to proceed without review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

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