Farm Bill Deal Boosts Bird Conservation, Avoids Many Harmful Rollbacks

ABC Applauds Expansion of Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Contact: Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, Vice President of Policy, Phone: 202-888-7490 | Email: sholmer@abcbirds.org

The Golden-winged Warbler is one of the many species that will benefit from the habitat protected by Farm Bill programs. Photo by Lynda Goff.

(Washington, D.C., December 12, 2018) Congress has reached an agreement to renew the Farm Bill, which is crucial for migratory bird conservation and sustaining essential habitat for more than 100 bird species, from Bobolinks to Northern Bobwhite quail. Farm Bill programs provide America's single-largest source of conservation funding for private lands. The 2018 renewal ensures that programs will continue or even be expanded, as is the case with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

“This Farm Bill marks a victory for birds and the conservation work of farmers and landowners, and utilizing the RCPP, we can better target conservation efforts to bird species most in need,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “The final agreement also dropped numerous harmful provisions affecting federal forests, endangered species, and dangerous pesticides that kill millions of birds each year.”

The RCPP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the new bill, RCPP funding has been increased to $300 million per year from $100 million.

“Our thanks to Senator Debbie Stabenow for leading efforts to renew the Regional Conservation Partnership Program,” said Holmer, “and for standing steadfastly against attacks on the environment that threatened to undo this Farm Bill.”

RCPP has supported projects to conserve the Golden-winged Warbler – one of the fastest-declining migratory songbirds – which depends upon the conservation of key habitat in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin for breeding. Across its range, it has suffered a decline of more than three percent annually over the last 40 years. The Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement Project was also supported by RCPP to work with private landowners to enhance forest habitat on private lands for the Cerulean Warbler – another songbird in steep decline – and other wildlife.

Over the years, the Farm Bill has made great strides for birds on private lands. For example, the recovery of once-declining waterfowl populations is a remarkable success story and impact of the Farm Bill. While the number of waterfowl in the Prairie Pothole Region fluctuates yearly, ducks have increased by millions of individuals over the past quarter-century, thanks in good part to the Farm Bill. Many declining grassland birds also benefit from a strong Farm Bill.

The State of the Birds 2017 report documents the many benefits that the Farm Bill has delivered to birds, landowners, and rural communities. The 2018 Farm Bill also renews other conservation programs contributing to this success, such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. ​

What the new, finalized Farm Bill does not include is also critically important: Draft versions of the Farm Bill contained harmful provisions including a proposed exemption of pesticides from review under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), risking continued exposure to 97 percent of all ESA-listed birds that are known to be harmed by pesticides. Earlier drafts also proposed eliminating scientific review and public input for nearly all logging, undermining successful forest restoration programs such as the Resource Advisory Councils.  Also, not included in the final Farm Bill are proposed elimination of checks and balances that protect endangered species' habitat.

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American Bird Conservancy is a non-profit organization 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. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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