STATEMENT OF SENATOR TOM DASCHLE
ON S. 1970, THE NEOTROPICAL MIGRATORY BIRD CONSERVATION ACT
SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DRINKING WATER, FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE
July 7, 1998

Mr. Chairman, thank you for providing me with this opportunity to testify today on behalf of S. 1970, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. I strongly support this bill, and believe that it will be of great assistance in our efforts to preserve native bird species.

Some of our most valuable and beautiful species of birds -- those that most of us take for granted, including bluebirds, goldfinches, robins and orioles -- are challenged by habitat destruction in our hemisphere. It is not widely recognized that many North American bird species once considered common are in decline. In fact, a total of 90 species of migratory birds are listed as endangered or threatened in the United States, and another 124 species are considered to be of high conservation concern.

Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt of the benefit that these birds bring to the United States. Healthy bird populations prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses each year to farming and timber interests. By controlling insect populations, they help to prevent damage to crops. In addition, birdwatching and feeding generates $20 billion every year in revenue. Approximately 25 million Americans travel to observe birds each year, and 60 million American adults watch and feed birds at home.

While we have taken steps to help protect these birds in the United States, they are also threatened by habitat destruction elsewhere in our hemisphere when they migrate south during winter months. For that reason, it is essential that we work with nations in Latin America and the Caribbean to establish protected stopover areas during their migrations. This bill achieves that goal by fostering partnerships between businesses, nongovernmental organizations and other nations to bring together the capital and expertise needed to preserve habitat throughout our hemisphere.

Specifically, the act establishes a three year demonstration project providing $4 million each year to help establish programs in Latin America and the Caribbean to manage and conserve neotropical migratory bird populations. The act is designed to promote cooperation among nongovernmental organizations. The federal share of each project's cost is limited to 33 percent, and half the nonfederal contribution must be in cash, not in-kind contributions.

Mr. Chairman, I hope that you and the subcommittee will offer this bill your strong support. It has been endorsed by the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and the Ornithological Council. I believe that it will substantially improve upon our ability to maintain critical habitat in our hemisphere and help to halt the decline of these important species. Thank you again for allowing me to testify in support of the bill.