Migratory birds throughout the Western Hemisphere received a boost in May when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe approved $3.5 million in grants for 27 collaborative conservation projects across the Americas. These Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants will leverage a 3.5-to-1 return for conservation, matching the Service’s investment with about $12.5 million in private funds.
The projects will conserve more than 250,000 acres of migratory bird habitat, stimulate critical research into declining bird populations, and fund outreach programs to raise local awareness of conservation issues and solutions.
More than 350 species of Neotropical migratory birds migrate to and from the United States each year, including warblers, plovers, sandpipers, terns, hawks, flycatchers and sparrows. The populations of many of these birds are in decline, and several species are currently considered endangered or threatened as a result of habitat loss, pollution or climate change.
“Birds provide millions of Americans with enjoyment and a real connection to nature. They also pollinate our crops and protect them from pests, and generate $11 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues each year through the birdwatching industry,” said Ashe. “But while we may think of them as ‘our’ birds, they actually only spend part of each year in the U.S., and so to conserve them, we must work internationally with partners to protect their habitats and reduce threats across the Americas. This is what makes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act so unique, important and effective; it funds collaborative conservation projects throughout these birds’ breeding and winter ranges.”
Grants and matching funds received through the Act will support public-private partnerships to conserve Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats throughout their migratory ranges, from their breeding sites in Canada and the United States, to their wintering sites in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This year’s grants will benefit hundreds of species in 15 countries. Project highlights include:
· Bay of Panama: Located near the mouth of the Panama Canal beside the narrow isthmus between North and South America, the Bay of Panama is a critical migration and wintering site for more than 33 species of North American breeding shorebirds, including more than 30% of the U.S. population of the Western Sandpiper. The habitats these birds rely upon are highly threatened by development pressure from Panama City. In collaboration with 30 local organizations, grantee National Audubon Society will strengthen communications to local people about the importance of the Bay of Panama to the economy, to Neotropical shorebirds, and to environmental and human health.
· Asunción Bay: A total of 32 species of Neotropical migratory birds have been recorded in Asunción Bay, located along the northern outskirts of the capital of Paraguay. It is globally significant as a stopover site for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The development of a coastal road has reconnected the urban population of Asunción with its natural heritage, but destroyed about 70% of the shorebird habitat in the bay. Local and national government agencies will work with NGO Guyra Paraguay to restore and manage 60 acres of priority habitats within Asunción Bay. Guyra Paraguay will hire reserve guards and train local people to be ecotourism guides, and engage with media to raise awareness for bay conservation.
Seven projects are funded under a pilot program started in 2012 and designed to focus resources on a group of particularly threatened birds. By making a long-term investment in priority species and monitoring population improvements, these projects will allow the Service to learn, adapt and be strategic in how to manage conservation funding. A pilot program highlight from this round:
· The Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler breeds in central Texas, and relies on pine-oak forests in Central America for its wintering grounds. Grantee Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza is partnering with an alliance of organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua to increase the amount of Golden-cheeked Warbler wintering habitat under legal protection or being managed through sustainable agroforestry. It will also establish a monitoring system for the species to develop measurable population objectives for a 5-10 year conservation plan.
“The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act conserves Neotropical migrants for the benefit of people throughout the Americas,” said Jerome Ford, Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Migratory Birds. “By investing in priority species, key habitats, and successful conservation actions, we achieve the highest impact for each grant dollar invested and make a real difference for birds.”
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 established the matching grants program to fund projects to conserve Neotropical migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Funds may be used to protect, research, monitor and manage bird populations and habitat, as well as to conduct law enforcement and community outreach and education. The Act requires a partner-to-grant dollar match of 3-to-1, but has achieved a ratio closer to 4-to-1. For more information on funded projects for 2013 and previous years, visit http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NMBCA/
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