U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced legislation on Thursday, May 12 to enhance the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), a conservation program that has benefitted 4.5 million acres of habitat across the hemisphere for the more than 350 neotropical bird species that breed in the United States and Canada and spend the winter in Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Neotropical migrants, which includes species like the Kirtland’s Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and Wood Thrush, which breed in the Great Lakes region, face an increasingly complex range of threats, including development pressures, invasive species, and climate change.
“Protecting migratory birds means ensuring their needs are met wherever they are. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation program has been a proven success, restoring habitat for migrating birds like the Scarlet Tanager, whether they are nesting and breeding in Ohio and the Great Lakes region, or foraging on their wintering grounds in the tropics,” said Marnie Urso, Senior Policy Director for Audubon Great Lakes. “Audubon Great Lakes thanks Senator Portman for introducing legislation that will scale up this important program, to benefit even more birds throughout their various life stages at a time moment when they need protections the most.”
As a matching grant program, NMBCA is an innovative and cost-effective approach that generates funding from a range of sources beyond the U.S. government to benefit neotropical bird populations. Since 2000, the U.S. has invested more than $80 million, which has sparked an additional $310 million in matching funds from public-private partnerships. Together, these funds have supported 658 projects in 36 Latin American and Caribbean countries and 40 U.S. states and territories, and provinces and territories across Canada.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Enhancement Act would triple the investment the program makes in on-the-ground habitat protection and restoration, education, and research, and will ensure that funds are at least doubled by other governments and partners.
The newly proposed legislation specifically aims to:
- More than triple the authorized annual funding for the program from up to $6.5M to up to $25M by FY 2028.
- Increase the available match of federal funds that can result in more, larger proposals and fewer barriers to participation by partners at a time when action is urgently required.
- Provide greater capacity to implement the grant program by raising the amount the Fish and Wildlife Service can allocate toward managing it.
Apart from being among the most stunning and awe-inspiring species enjoyed by birdwatchers, neotropical birds are also economically important for their role in pest control and pollination for agriculture. In Ohio, birding also contributes more than $20 million worth of tourism business each year.
In recent years, Congressional spending committees and the Biden administration have shown an increased commitment to funding the NMBCA program. To continue to grow the program, fulfill the unmet demand by applicants, and address urgent conservation needs for these species, Audubon urges Congress to take up and advance this legislation swiftly.