New legislation proposed to help migratory birds in the Americas


New US legislation introduced in May is set to enhance the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA).

The NMBCA is an innovative and cost-effective approach to the conservation of the more than 350 Neotropical bird species in the US that travel to Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Canada every year, including Scarlet Tanager, Purple Martin and Baltimore Oriole. It supports the conservation of bird habitat as well as research, monitoring, outreach and education.  

As a matching grant program, it catalyses funding from a range of sources beyond the US government. Since 2000, the US has invested $80 million, which has sparked an additional $310 million in matching funds from public-private partnerships. These funds have supported 658 projects in 36 Latin American and Caribbean countries, 40 US states and territories, and provinces and territories across Canada.

Baltimore Oriole is one of 350 migratory species across the Americas that the new legislation will help to protect (Steve Bell).

Specifically, the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Enhancements Act (S 4187) aims to:  

  • More than triple the authorised annual funding for the program from up to $6.5 million to up to $25 million by fiscal year 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.

Marshall Johnson, Chief Conservation Officer of the National Audubon Society, said: "Birds don't recognise borders, so we must work with our neighbours to protect them wherever they fly. This legislation will provide more places to nest, winter, and rest for the millions of birds across farms and forests in Ohio, through backyards and bays in Maryland, to the mountains of Colombia, and beyond.

"There are so many incredible yet imperilled birds we share across the Western Hemisphere, this legislation will promote shared stewardship of those birds and the places they need. The proposed bill would triple the investment NMBCA can make in on-the-ground habitat protection, restoration, education, and research. It also ensures those funds are leveraged by other governments and partners."

Every spring, millions of birds travel thousands of kilometres from Latin America and the Caribbean to their breeding grounds in the US and Canada, as far north as the Arctic. As winter approaches, these migratory birds make the long trip back south. Apart from being among the most stunning and awe-inspiring birds enjoyed by birders, these 350 species are also economically important for their role in pest control, seed dispersal, pollination for agriculture, and ecotourism. In the US, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 45 million birders, generating an economic output of $96 billion.

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.

"These are the kinds of investments we must make to help recover the 3 billion birds lost on this continent alone since 1970," said Mr Johnson.