WASHINGTON (December 18, 2019) – Congress is poised to pass an appropriations package for fiscal year 2020 this week that includes increased spending for critical conservation and research programs that benefit birds, but also fails to take meaningful action on climate and includes several harmful provisions. The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce which houses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The increases for critical conservation programs demonstrate the American public's and Congress's commitment to protect and restore the places and resources birds need the most, but more must be done to act on climate and address problematic riders and programs that undermine conservation,” said Sarah Greenberger, the National Audubon Society’s Senior VP for Conservation Policy. “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.
“It is deeply disappointing that the final appropriations includes the short-sighted amendment that prohibits the Greater Sage-Grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. And it just adds insult to injury that it passed while populations are plummeting and the Administration is attempting to dismantle the historic multi-state agreement that remains the species best shot at recovery.”
Below is an overview of how specific provisions advance programs that are important for birds, people, and the environment:
Focus on improving natural infrastructure systems and programs specific to birds
$33M for Coastal Zone Management Grants, Title IX (10% increase), $28M for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (2% increase): The President’s Budget eliminated two programs that saw increased funding in this bill and are important to protecting, researching, and restoring coastal habitat, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and Coastal Zone Management Grants. These programs enhance wetlands, barrier islands, living shorelines, and more that benefit birds like American Oystercatchers and Red Knots, as well as buffer storm damage, absorb floodwaters, and prepare coastal areas for resilience in the face of sea level rise.
$7.5M for Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Program: The appropriations bill supports and further funds the “Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Program,” providing $7.5M for 10 pilot projects. Audubon received authorization from this program last year to enhance an important barrier island in South Carolina, the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary. This pilot program takes “beneficial dredged material” or sediment and sand to increase the size of the island and for channel navigation, supporting birds like the Brown Pelican, Black Skimmer, and American Oystercatcher.
Enhances and protects the places birds need
$466 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (7% increase) Building off of the monumental effort that permanently reauthorized this program in 2018, this is the highest level of funding in 15 years for this important program. Since 1964, LWCF has protected parks, important wildlife habitat, and areas of cultural significance in all fifty states and almost every county. Over its decades-long history, the program has protected many vital places for birds, including Florida’s Everglades, California’s Point Reyes National Sea Shore, and Golden-winged Warbler habitat in North Carolina. Additional funding will ensure that more projects to protect and improve conservation throughout the country become a reality.
$200 million for Everglades restoration efforts within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (196% increase): Since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved in 2000, the goal was to support restoration efforts with a minimum of $200 m from the state partner and $200 m from the federal partner. For the first time, both federal and state partners are stepping up to this challenge. As a number of key restoration projects near the finish line, this funding will help provide unprecedented progress and improve habitat for birds that help define restoration success like Roseate Spoonbills.
$320 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (7% increase): Earlier this Fall, the GLRI Action Plan III was released by EPA which includes a new focus on breeding marsh birds after Audubon advocates articulated the importance of Great Lakes coastal wetlands for birds like Black Terns. This robust federal investment will help meet new goals while continuing to ensure strong clean water protections so essential to successful Great Lakes restoration.
$9.7 million to support the Delaware River Conservation Act (62% increase): The Delaware River Basin Restoration Plan was created to lead conservation and restoration effort across the Delaware River Watershed, which encompasses more than 13,500 square miles of land across four states, provides crucial ecosystem, recreational and commercial services, and supplies more than 13.5 million people with clean drinking water. Record-level funding for this program through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will result in enhanced conservation for birds like Belted Kingfishers and Northern Harriers
$4.91 million for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (26% increase): Since 2002, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) has been an effective matching grant program to fund projects that conserve neotropical migratory birds, those that breed in or migrate through the United States and Canada and spend the non-breeding season in Latin America and the Caribbean, where over 4 billion birds representing over 386 species spend their winters.
$46 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (10% increase): The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is a highly successful program that has significantly benefitted birds, other wildlife, and people for 30 years. It has funded nearly 3,000 projects that have positively impacted 30 million acres, and its 6,200 partners have contributed more than $3.5 billion to match $1.75 billion in grants making it a wise investment for our wetlands.
$38M for Habitat Conservation and Restoration (1% increase): NOAA’s Habitat Conservation and Restoration Program saw a small increase in funding, and works to conserve habitat to boost fish populations. Many of the habitats that fish need, birds use, too, such as wetlands, rivers, eelgrass and more.
$1.5M for Shorebird Flyway Plans (100% increase): The bill provides funding for USFWS programs in Central and South America to protect the habitat of migratory birds that urgently need conservation action along the Atlantic and Pacific flyways. This program ensures focused conservation action to protect and restore necessary habitats and reduce threats to prevent shorebird species from becoming threatened or endangered.
$510.28M for Geographic Programs (12% increase), $29.82 for National Estuary Program (12% increase): 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.
Robust Funding for Ocean Ecosystems
$948M for the National Marine Fisheries Service (4% increase): The bill includes increased funding for programs important to shorebird and seabird habitat and prey. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) works to ensure sustainable fisheries, recovery and conservation of protected resources, healthy ecosystems, and more benefitting coastal communities, fishermen, and marine organisms.
$56M for National Marine Sanctuaries (0%) increase): The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries saw level funding, and protects over 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. Marine protected areas are key to providing habitats for seabirds, fish, and other marine life that benefit coastal communities and economies.
Conserving our water resources for people and birds
$55 million for Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants (62% increase): As the Colorado River faces the continued challenge of water scarcity and in light of an historic drought agreement reached earlier this year, tools to conserve water are more important than ever. Importantly, report language included from the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill also urges the Bureau of Reclamation to prioritize the projects within this program that provide the maximum water conservation benefits. An additional $20 million was also provided for water conservation activities in areas that are experiencing extended drought conditions.
The bill also includes the text of S. 990, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Extension Act, which reauthorizes this critical restoration program and H.R. 1023, the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act, which Audubon supported as it passed committee last week.
The threat of climate change
Congress failed to extend critical tax credits for the development of renewable energy. Here’s a full statement on the tax credits from Renee Stone, VP for Climate, National Audubon Society.
$2.848 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) (20% increase): This office, which supports clean energy research within the Department of Energy (DOE), will receive record-level funding. This includes $280 million for the solar program, whose goals included improving photovoltaic technology and grid integration to reduce the cost of solar adoption, as well as $104 million for the wind energy program, with half of the funds set aside for offshore wind. Renewable energy, properly sited and managed for bird safety, is key to mitigating climate change, which is the greatest threat that birds face.
$425 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (16% increase): ARPA-E supports early-stage alternative energy projects that have the potential to transform the energy system. Projects are selected through a competitive application process, and are given funding and guidance with the hopes of overcoming the unique barriers that hinder adoption of new energy technology. New technologies that benefit from the ARPA—E process may be essential for the transition to a clean energy economy needed to slow the causes of climate change.
The bill also includes $55 million for the research of energy storage systems within DOE’s Office of Electricity. Improved energy storage technology will be a key piece of integrating more renewable energy onto the grid.
$170M for Climate Research (7% increase): NOAA provides data, tools, and information to help understand the impacts of climate change. Climate change is an existential threat to birds and people, and Audubon is encouraged to see increased funding for climate research to address and understand this threat.
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