WASHINGTON (October 31, 2019) – The U.S. Senate passed an appropriations package today for fiscal year 2020 that includes increased spending for critical conservation and research programs that benefit birds. The spending package includes four bills, Agriculture-FDA (S. 2522), Commerce-Justice-Science (S. 2584), Interior-Environment (S. 2580), and Transportation-HUD (S. 2520), which provide funding for programs throughout several different agencies and cabinet departments. While some problematic provisions remain in these bills, overall the funding prioritizes protecting the places and resources birds need now and into the future.
“With increases for critical programs, Congress is showing a commitment to protect and restore the places and resources birds need the most,” said Sarah Greenberger, the National Audubon Society’s Senior VP for Conservation Policy. “The funding for programs focused on coastal and freshwater ecosystem restoration, fisheries management, and protecting wildlife will help secure more protections for birds and other important wildlife.
“Unfortunately, the Senate bill would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Listing decisions should be made by biologists not politicians. We are counting on lawmakers to do what’s right, follow the House appropriators lead and omit this language in the final law.”
Below is an overview of how this bill advances programs that are important for birds and the places they need:
Focus on improving natural infrastructure systems and programs specific to birds
Appropriators increased funding for key programs related to enhancing the places birds need. Through the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and National Wetland Conservation Act both saw substantial increases. These programs directly benefit birds such as American Oystercatchers and Golden-Cheeked Warblers through research, habitat conservation, and more and are critical to restore bird populations.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the National Wetland Conservation Act provide funding for restoration of wetland habitat. Wetlands are becoming more and more important as climate change is making storms more frequent and intense. Wetlands not only provide important bird habitat, they also protect communities from disasters by acting as our first lines of defense, slowing down wind and wave energy, and reducing erosion and flood damages.
Enhances and protects the places birds need
The bill also increases funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Geographic and National Estuary Programs, both of which protect resources and habitats necessary for bird survival and are of geographic interest to Audubon. Many of the Geographic and National Estuary Programs overlap with places where Audubon has on the ground restoration and research, including in the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, Puget Sound, South Florida, San Francisco Bay, and more. These programs help support Audubon’s commitment to science and conservation.
Senator Peters (MI) championed an amendment to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $301M to $320M. The Great Lakes are the world’s largest freshwater system and home to 30 million people and the more than 350 species of birds in the region. This amendment will provide a greater investment in our Great Lakes, which is critical to conserving this extremely important ecosystem today and into the future.
The bill proposes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $465 million, a 6.9% increase over FY19 levels, but a nearly $60 million decrease from the House FY20 bill. Since 1964, LWCF has protected parks, important wildlife habitat, and areas of cultural significance in all fifty states and almost every county. LWCF supports birds like the Spotted Owl and White-throated Swift. Although authorized at $900 million, the program has only received full funding twice since its inception. The LWCF uses no taxpayer dollars. It relies on invested earnings from offshore oil and gas leases. A bipartisan group of eight senators attempted to boost funding to the full $900 million for FY20 through an amendment, however, it was not included in the final package. It is possible this may be addressed when the House and Senate meet in conference on the bill.
Robust funding for ocean ecosystems
The package includes increased funding for programs important to shorebird and seabird habitat and prey. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for protecting marine resources such as fish, saw a significant increase in funding. Additionally, the President’s Budget eliminated two programs important to protecting, researching, and restoring coastal habitat, the National Estuarine Research Reserve system and Coastal Zone Management Grants. However, this bill includes full or increased funding for the programs.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
Media Contact: Matt Smelser, 202.516.5593, firstname.lastname@example.org