WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pledging to work with wildlife conservation agencies and bird conservation groups across the nation, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today unveiled a Presidential initiative to halt and reverse the dramatic decline in U.S. wild bird populations.
“Last year, annual surveys conducted by the Audubon Society documented the alarming decline in populations of common birds, which have plummeted 70 percent on average since 1967,” Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said. “That specter reminds me that more than 50 years ago, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist named Rachel Carson wrote about a ‘Silent Spring’ without wild birds singing in the trees. Today, we are bolstering the struggle to ensure that we will never have a Silent Spring.”
The Birds Forever Initiative, a joint effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, would expand and improve the health of wild bird habitat, strengthen educational outreach programs and work in partnership with states, local communities, conservation organizations and other bird-loving partners to reverse this precipitous decline in wild bird populations. The initiative carries out the vision set forth in the President Bush’s October 20, 2007 announcement of a migratory bird initiative.
Recognizing and supporting the vital role that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plays in bird conservation in this hemisphere, the President’s FY 2009 budget request for the Service calls for sustaining increases of $35.9 million in the 2008 Interior budget for wildlife refuges to conserve, protect and enhance more than 200,000 acres of vital stopover habitat for migratory birds—the equivalent of 150,000 football fields.
The Fish and Wildlife Service also would receive an $8.0 million increase under the Birds Forever Initiative to support targeted planning and broad-scale activities to address threats to bird species. This increase includes a net increase of $3.8 million for monitoring and assessment of birds, $196,000 for conservation grant programs, and $4.0 million for Migratory Bird Joint Ventures.
The planned actions will apply the concepts of adaptive management and strategic habitat conservation; create urban bird treaties; collaborate on joint ventures for waterfowl; work with Mexico to enhance bird habitats in their country; improve the status of five bird species over the next five years; and compile a 2009 State of the Birds report.
Under the President’s initiative, 36 bird species will be targeted in priority areas by expanding current partnership programs. Partnering with other conservation groups, the department will collect scientific data to monitor and document changes in numbers and distribution across landscapes. Interior agencies will also engage citizens in protecting birds though urban bird “treaties,” which help cities to understand the needs and stressors of birds.
The U.S. Geological Survey would receive a $1 million increase to support this initiative, funding efforts to better understand large-scale drivers of migratory bird population and habitat change such as global warming, deforestation and urban development. This initiative supports monitoring efforts including the Breeding Bird Survey and other migratory bird monitoring activities.