In a move attacked by bird conservation groups as “one of the most regressive wildlife appropriations” ever, crucial conservation programs were slashed by 50% of FY 2012 funding levels in a funding bill approved by the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee for Fiscal Year 2013. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) – a major source of funding for conservation programs that benefit migratory birds –was also cut in half.
Also sliced in half were funding for State Wildlife Grants, the nation’s core program for preventing birds and wildlife from becoming endangered in addition to supporting strategic conservation investments in every state and territory, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides funding for conservation projects that benefit wetland birds.
“I think this is a serious setback on the threat-to-wildlife scale,” said Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy for American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization. “Of course we are in tough economic times, but the answer certainly isn’t to slash and burn conservation programs! Wildlife related activities such as birdwatching pump billions of dollars into the economy every year. If wildlife conservation programs are gutted and wildlife populations shrink, local economies will suffer. There’s no doubt that funding for these wildlife bills are both effective and essential.”
For example, NMBCA is the only federal U.S. grants program specifically dedicated to the conservation of migrant birds throughout the Americas. NMBCA has a proven track record of success, having supported 367 projects in 48 U.S. states and territories and 35 other countries since its inception in 2002. NMBCA grants totaling more than $39 million have leveraged $152 million in matching funds, a partner to grant dollar match of nearly 4:1. To date, more than 3 million acres of migratory bird habitat have been positively affected. Advances in conservation for many declining species, such as the Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager and Cerulean Warbler, owe much to the NMBCA.
The NMBCA grant program has also been a catalyst for bird conservation and partnership development throughout the Western Hemisphere, actively promoting the long-term conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.
NMBCA projects focus on priority areas and threats to migratory birds, funding activities that will protect habitat and energize local conservation initiatives. For example, the conversion of grassland habitat to agriculture is a major reason the number of grassland birds such as the Long-billed Curlew, is rapidly declining. Consequently, the conservation of this important ecosystem throughout the hemisphere is a high priority for the NMBCA grant program, which has supported two large-scale conservation efforts aimed at conserving grassland habitats.
The bill will now move to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Image courtesy Bill Hubick