Portman, Cardin Introduce Legislation to Protect the Northern Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, and Other Migratory Birds

February 1, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced legislation to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (S. 310), which would promote the long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 380 species of migratory birds. 

Migratory birds, including Ohio’s state bird, the Northern Cardinal, and Maryland’s state bird, the Baltimore Oriole, continue to face threats from pesticide pollution, deforestation, sprawl, and invasive species that degrade their habitats. This legislation invests $6.5 million each year through 2024 for critical conservation programs that have demonstrated marked successes through public-private partnerships and innovative granting and conservation strategies.  In addition to Senators Portman and Cardin, original cosponsors include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). 

“Hundreds of bird species migrate through Ohio each year, making Lake Erie one of the most popular destinations for birdwatching,” Senator Portman said. “Birding contributes more than $20 million to Ohio’s tourism industry and attracts visitors from across the world each year.  Protecting and conserving these bird populations is critically important and I am proud to work with Senator Cardin on this bipartisan legislation.” 

“Migratory birds play a crucial role in our ecosystems, our agriculture, and our national and local cultures,” said Senator Cardin. “The programs funded by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act have consistent track record of success in helping to sustain populations of migratory birds that face threats to their health and habitats. The reauthorization of this bill marks our continued our commitment to improving our environment and investing in the flora and fauna that help our communities grow and thrive.” 

NOTE: Established in 2000, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act has consistently strengthened our federal investment in habitat protection, education, research and monitoring of birds considered neotropical migrants — birds that spend summers in the United States and winter in Latin America. Their presence is been vital to the well-being of our economy. Farmers rely on these birds to consume billions of harmful insects and rodent pests, pollinate crops, and disperse seeds. 

Since 2002, more than $66 million in grants have been awarded through this law, supporting 570 projects in 36 countries. More than 4.5 million acres of habitat have been positively affected. In 2018, more than $3.8 million in federal funds were matched by more than $14.2 million in partner contributions going to 29 collaborative conservation projects in 16 countries across the Americas. 

For nearly a decade, federal investment in habitat protection, education, research and monitoring of neotropical migratory birds has been vital to the well-being of our economy. Nationwide, bird watchers include more than 47 million Americans who are part of a larger wildlife watching community that spends $30 billion annually. Ohio is home to the annual “Biggest Week in American Birding”, based at Maumee Bay State Park. The week-long event brings in more than 75,000 people each year.  

Last year, Senator Portman received the Audubon Society’s Conservation Hero award for his work to protect migratory birds and their habitats. 

In 2014, Senator Portman worked to pass a resolution to recognize the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the last known passenger pigeon, once the world’s most abundant bird. The resolution highlighted the importance of conserving wildlife populations.