Press Room

U.S. House Passes Second Bill to Boost Funding for Critical Conservation Programs

Increased funding benefits birds nationwide and builds on U.S. House support of conservation.

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2019) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the second appropriations bill in a week that increases funding for critical conservation programs. “Minibus number 2” (H.R. 3055) prioritizes the protection of important lands, funding for bird programs, monitoring and research, restoration of coastal habitat, and promotion of healthy fisheries.

“As sea levels rise and development continues, research and monitoring are imperative to understanding how to preserve the places birds – and communities – need to survive and thrive in the face of a changing climate,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation policy at the National Audubon Society. “Building on the approval of appropriations bill H.R. 2740 that contained record-level funding for water, restoration, and energy projects last week, U.S. House leadership shows that they’re taking conservation for birds, other wildlife, and people seriously.”

The bill advances programs that are important for birds and the places they need, including:

Funding highlights for the Department of the Interior (DOI):

Land and Water Conservation Fund: The appropriations bill increases funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for a total of $523,950,000 – a 20.5 percent increase from last year. 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.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: In the 2017 Tax Act, Congress mandated new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This law estimated that the oil and gas lease sales will generate $1 billion in federal revenue. The appropriations bill requires the Bureau of Land Management to set a minimum bid on what companies must pay to lease part of the Arctic Refuge’s fragile Coastal Plain for drilling. While fossil fuel development does not belong anywhere in the Arctic Refuge—one of the most prolific bird nurseries on the planet—this bill will ensure that the oil and gas lease sales generate the projected revenue before drilling can take place. Half a million birds breed on the Coastal Plain and millions more pass through during spring and fall migration, serving as an Important Bird Area for 14 species, such as the Golden Eagle and American Golden-plover. Increased infrastructure, industrial activity, and oil spills are just a few of the impacts that oil and gas would present to birds in the Refuge.

Delaware River Basin Restoration Program:  The Delaware River Restoration Program was funded to a record high of $10 million (a 66.7 percent increase from last year). This program helps conserve the Delaware River Basin, which encompasses more than 13,500 square miles of land across four states, provides crucial ecosystem, recreational and commercial services, and supplies more than 15 million people with clean drinking water. Increasing funding for this program will result in enhanced conservation for birds like Bald Eagles, Bobolinks, and the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Other important highlights:

  • Funds the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation program $1,000,000 above the enacted level, resulting in $4,910,000 in funding that goes directly toward the restoration of migratory bird populations.
  • Increases funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act by 19%, for a total of $50,000,000, in order to expand efforts to protect and restore wetland habitat.
  • Increases funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants by 9.3 percent for a total of $70,571,000. This is the only federal program that helps state agencies develop and implement state wildlife action plans. 
  • Prohibits funds from being used by DOI to conduct certain oil and gas leasing or drilling activities in outer continental shelf planning areas in the Atlantic, Pacific, and off the coast of Florida.
  • Expresses concern over the administration’s legal opinion on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that gave a free pass for bird deaths caused by industrial hazards, such as oil spills, and directs DOI to issue reports on its activities under the law. 

Funding highlights for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

“Holding 20 percent of the world’s fresh water within more than 10,000 miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes are a globally significant ecosystem and are an invaluable asset to the entire country,” said Nat Miller, acting executive director at Audubon Great Lakes. “An increased investment in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is an important step to protect this precious resource, which supports fisheries, recreation, and tourism and provides vital habitat to more than 350 bird species and countless other wildlife.”

Geographic Programs: The bill increases funding for Geographic Programs to $475,958,000 – a 4.15 percent increase from last year. The Geographic Programs managed by the EPA are especially beneficial to birds dependent on healthy aquatic ecosystems like the Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, Long Island Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico. More specifically, appropriators direct $320,000,000 from Geographic Programs toward the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (6.66 percent increase), which has made a significant impact in cleaning up toxic hot spots, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and combating invasive species.

National Estuary Program: National Estuary Program funding was increased to $31,723,000 – an 18.7 percent increase. The National Estuary Program protects and restores 28 estuaries of national significance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary in Louisiana, which monitors and protects nesting and foraging sites for threatened birds like the Snowy Plover, Wilson’s Plover, American Oystercatcher, and Least Tern.

Other important highlights:

  • Prevents funding from being used toward expanding timber harvesting activity in the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest at 17 million acres in size. The Tongass has long been a target of the timber industry, which already engages in timber activity on 9.7 million acres – or 58 percent – of the national forest. Birds like the Queen Charlotte Goshawk and the Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse are particularly reliant on the vanishing ancient forests of giant trees that still grow in a few areas in the Tongass.  

Funding Highlights for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

“We thank Congress for providing sufficient funding for NOAA to adequately restore and safeguard coastal areas, protecting communities from sea level rise and storms while providing necessary habitat for sea and shorebirds,” said Dr. Karen Hyun, vice president of coastal conservation at the National Audubon Society. “Funding for NOAA programs also supports sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries that protects the fish seabirds and recreational and commercial anglers depend on for survival and their livelihoods.”

National Marine Fisheries Service: Appropriators set funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to total $954,650,000 – a 13.3 percent increase from last year. NMFS works to ensure sustainable fisheries, recovery and conservation of protected resources, healthy ecosystems, and more. Our nation’s ocean ecosystems depend on NMFS to sustain fish species populations that sea and shorebirds rely on and that are the backbone of the natural food chain.

Coastal Zone Management Grant and Title IX Fund: The bill increased funding for the Coastal Zone Management Grant program to $81,000,000 (53 percent increase) and the Title IX fund to $60,000,000 (100 percent increase). 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. Additionally, Rep. Huffman (CA) made legislative changes to ensure that stakeholders will always be able to provide meaningful input on activities that impact their coast through the Coastal Zone Management Act.

National Estuarine Research Reserves: Funding for the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs), a network of 29 protected coastal areas, increased to $29,000,000 – a 7.4 percent increase. These reserves are a hub for long-term research, education, and coastal stewardship, and support sea and shorebirds, including Black Skimmers, Wilson’s Plovers, and Reddish Egrets.

Other important highlights:

  • Increases funding for other important NOAA programs, including: Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas (9.3 percent increase), Habitat Conservation and Restoration (62.7 percent increase), and Climate Research (17.3 percent increase).

Funding highlights for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

In 2018, Congress reauthorized the “Farm Bill,” the largest government source for conservation funding. This reauthorization expanded funding for many conservation programs that benefit birds. This year, appropriators fully funded conservation programs within the Farm Bill, keeping important funding intact for birds like the Tricolored Blackbird and Bobwhite Quail.

Other important highlights:

  • Increased funding for the Watershed Flood Prevention Act by $5 million (3 percent), which allows the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to collaborate with local sponsors to conduct watershed surveys and carry out activities for soil conservation, water conservation, and flood prevention.

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About Audubon
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 at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Chandler Lennon, clennon@audubon.org, 212.979.3063

 

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