Birds to Benefit from New Priorities in House Interior Appropriations Bill
(Washington, D.C., May 15, 2019) Migratory birds and other wildlife will benefit from new funding increases proposed in the House Interior Appropriations bill released yesterday, in a move that clearly demonstrates the new U.S. House of Representatives' support of environmental issues.
“We thank Chairwoman Betty McCollum and the House Interior Subcommittee for producing such a strong environmental bill. This legislation makes overdue funding and policy adjustments that stand to benefit birds and other wildlife,” said Jennifer Cipolletti, Director of Conservation Advocacy for American Bird Conservancy.
The bill will increase funding for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) to $4.9 million, a million-dollar increase. Since 2002, the NMBCA has functioned as a matching grant program to fund projects that conserve Neotropical migratory birds – those that breed in or migrate through the United States and Canada and spend the nonbreeding season in Latin America and the Caribbean. NMBCA has helped conserve 400 species, including some of the most endangered birds in North America.
The bill proposes a $14 million increase for two key wildlife conservation programs: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or NAWCA ($50 million), and State and Tribal Wildlife Grants ($70 million). The latter is the nation's core program for preventing wildlife from becoming endangered; it supports a wide variety of wildlife-related projects by state fish and wildlife agencies throughout the United States. NAWCA provides funding for conservation projects for the benefit of wetland-associated migratory birds in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The Greater Sage-Grouse is another beneficiary of the legislation. “We're heartened to see that a rider was dropped that would have prevented Endangered Species Act protection of the grouse regardless of how low the species' numbers plummet,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Another harmful provision removed would have prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating ammunition and fishing sinkers made with lead, a dangerous toxin that causes the needless poisoning of an estimated 16 million birds each year.”
A large coalition of more than 150 conservation groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Defenders of Wildlife, and National Audubon Society, also asked for increases to Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, State of the Birds activities for Hawaiian birds, and Invasive Species Early Detection and Rapid Response efforts. Funding amounts for these programs will be included in the Committee Report to be released next week.
- Migratory Bird Joint Ventures would receive a $3 million increase. Joint Ventures are regional partnerships managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that identify conservation priorities and carry out projects to reverse population declines of at-risk bird species.
- State of the Birds activities for Hawaiian birds are dedicated to arresting the bird extinction crisis in Hawaii, where more than 90 bird species have gone extinct and nine listed species are currently in decline. This program, which was slated for elimination in the President's budget, will continue with a budget of $3 million.
- The bill proposes a $4 million increase for Invasive Species Early Detection activities used to survey for, report, and verify the presence of non-native species before founding populations become established or spread so widely that eradication is no longer feasible. Rapid Response efforts are then employed to eradicate non-native species.
- The bill also directs agencies of the Department of the Interior to take actions to reduce window collisions with their office buildings, nature and visitor centers. This includes monitoring for bird collisions, assessing retrofits, and turning off interior lights at night and applying films to glass windows to reduce collisions.
“We appreciate the Committee's leadership to help birds, and urge the full House of Representatives to vote in support of this good Interior Appropriations bill,” said Holmer.
Citizens can help by writing their Representatives and Senators via ABC's action alert system.
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit 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.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).