Birds

A Birds Agenda for the 117th Congress

Graphics by Jillian Ditner.

From the autumn 2020 edition of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

The federal government is playing an important role in reversing the bird decline. In the past, conservation legislation has “prevented extinction and encouraged the recovery of once impoverished birds,” as a Cornell Lab-led study published in Science a year ago found.

The Great American Outdoors Act was passed at the 116th Congress, which established permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF has protected millions of acres in all 50 states since President Johnson signed it in 1964, but funding has been uncertain for the past few decades. After President Trump passed the Senate and House with both party support, he signed the bill.

“We’re here today to celebrate the passage of a truly landmark law that will preserve the majestic natural wonders of America,” President Trump said at the signing ceremony on Aug. 4, 2020. “This is a very big deal. And from an environmental standpoint … There’s nothing like that since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect. “

Hopefully the Great American Outdoors Act will give impetus to the next congress. The U.S. federal government can be a motor of recovery for America’s birds, but it requires strong action in the House and Senate. From the start of the 117th Congress, there will be many ways to do this.

Legislative measures in favor of birds

The Congressional Review Act

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to repeal agency rules established within 60 law days of the end of a presidential term. The most recent rule changes to remove side effects from the Law on the Treaty on Migratory Birds and to weaken the Law on National Environmental Policy fall within the time frame for action by rating agencies and can be repealed by the 117th Congress.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was passed in July 2020 with bilateral support and could still be passed by the Senate at the 116th Congress. If not, RAWA will be reintroduced at the next Congress. RAWA combats habitat loss – the driving force behind bird decline in North America – by sending $ 1.4 billion in conservation funds annually to state and tribal wildlife agencies. This would allow all 50 states and five US territories to implement their conservation plans for designated species with the greatest need for conservation (wild and nongame species alike), including more than 700 species of birds.

The law on the protection of migratory birds

The Migratory Bird Protection Act was introduced in-house in January 2020 and attracted nearly 100 bipartisan supporters by providing a legislative resolution to maintain the enforcement of ancillary provisions in the Migratory Birds Treaty Act. If reintroduced in the next Congress, this bill would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to introduce an occasional removal permit system, encouraging companies to adhere to best practices to minimize bird death.

Great American Outdoors Act

“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a key example of what can be achieved by coming together. We are optimistic that we can move forward with non-partisan protection priorities for migratory birds at the 117th Congress. – Jennifer Cipolletti, Conservation Director, American Bird Conservancy

The Bird Safe Buildings Act


The Bird Safe Buildings Act, introduced by non-partisan co-authors at the 116th Congress, sets out bird-friendly guidelines for federal buildings. The bill, if reintroduced in the next Congress, will include building directives known to reduce the risk of bird collision, such as: B. the reduction of glass reflections and night lighting. Dr. Chris Sheppard, program director for collisions at the American Bird Conservancy, says, “This bill is a game changer. More than 20 states, counties, and communities have passed bird-friendly building laws, but federal recognition of this issue will set a model for the entire United States. “

The National Grasslands Conservation Act

The National Grasslands Conservation Act is a proposal by the National Wildlife Federation, with the hope that a bill will be introduced in the next Congress. The proposal addresses habitat loss for grassland birds, a group that has lost half its population since 1970, with a new federal grassland policy modeled after the hugely successful North American Wetlands Conservation Act. A grassland law would create a federal grassland strategy, allocate earmarked funds for the conservation and restoration of grassland, and encourage US government cooperation with Canada and Mexico on grassland conservation.

Research and text by the student editorial assistants Anil Oza and Gustave Axelson with the support of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Science Communication Fund. Graphics and design by Jillian Ditner. Ratings and contributions from Lynn Scarlett, former assistant secretary of the interior under President George W. Bush; Jay Branegan, Senior Fellow at the Lugar Center, founded by former US Senator Richard G. Lugar; and Ya-Wei Li, director of biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center.

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