Late last week, Congress approved legislation backed by the National Audubon Society designed to protect America's native migratory birds when they travel south to Latin America and the Caribbean during their migrations.

Known as the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Improvement Act, its chief backer, Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D) introduced it last year. By updating six year old bird legislation, it earned the immediate support of the National Audubon Society, and subsequently passed through Congress without major opposition. Its two main achievements are that it increases conservation program funding from $5 million to $6.5 million; and it allows Canada to apply for conservation grants.

"Neotropical migratory birds are important to America's more than 40 million bird watchers, vital to the United States' economy, and critical to the western hemisphere's environment," said Mike Daulton, Director of Conservation Policy for Audubon. "We applaud Representative Kind for guiding this important legislation through Congress with bipartisan support."

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), and Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT) have also been strong advocates of the bill. The bill is also supported by several other prominent conservation groups.

Neotropical migratory birds breed in North America and travel south to Latin America and the Caribbean during their migrations. Many of these birds can be seen in Wisconsin. In the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge alone there are more than 200 bird species that spend at least part of each year in the neotropics. When these birds travel to Latin America, they face a range of serious threats, from the clear-cutting of forests to harmful pesticides in agricultural fields.

Audubon has lobbied for three years to pass the bill. For more information, Audubon's official 2005 testimony before Congress on the bill can be found at
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