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Protecting Birds Across the Landscape: Audubon's 2011 State Legislative Priorities

Dec. 29, 2010: The 2011 Oregon Legislative Session is now upon us. Portland Audubon is prioritizing several bills which will help protect and restore native wildlife populations in Oregon. We also expect that, as in recent legislative sessions, there will be several bills introduced which will attempt to reduce natural resource protections.

Protecting Birds Across the Landscape: Audubon's 2011 State Legislative Priorities

Immature Peregrine - Steve Berliner

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

Dec. 29, 2010: The 2011 Oregon Legislative Session is now upon us. Portland Audubon is prioritizing several bills which will help protect and restore native wildlife populations in Oregon. We also expect that, as in recent legislative sessions, there will be several bills introduced which will attempt to reduce natural resource protections. We will need your help to ensure that we continue to make forward progress on creating sustainable, healthy landscapes for people and wildlife. Together, working with both our allies and members, we had a tremendously successful 2009 legislative session passing legislation which increased penalties for illegal killing of birds of prey, banned the bioaccumulative toxin PBDE and established Oregon's first Marine Reserves. Please join us in 2011 to ensure that this legislative session is equally successful. In this article we feature one priority piece of legislation and list several others that we will be working on 2011.

During the 2011 Legislative Session, bird lovers will have a chance to support a bill which will help ensure that conservation of native bird species in Oregon receives adequate funding in Oregon. The Wild Bird Conservation Act places a 5 cent per pound fee on birdseed--a "nickel for the birds--to fund our states most important bird related priorities. The Wild Bird Conservation Act was developed by a coalition of conservation organizations and the Backyard Bird Shops. The Act would generate approximately $2 million/ year for wild bird conservation and education projects in Oregon which would be doubled by a 1:1 federal match. 

What Would the Wild Bird Conservation Act do? By paying an extra nickel for each pound of birdseed, bird lovers would directly generate nearly $2 million per year to fund wild bird conservation initiatives in Oregon. This funding would be leveraged 1:1 with federal matching funds effectively doubling the impact to $4 million per year. Less than $100,000/ year would go towards funding a Avian Conservation Coordinator at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with the rest (minus administrative costs) going directly towards funding wild bird education and restoration projects on both urban and rural landscapes across Oregon. Priority would be places on projects involving partnerships benefiting birds.

The following are just a few examples of the types of projects that might be funded:

  • Bluebird recovery projects that provide nest boxes and monitoring for western bluebirds;
  • Habitat restoration for Oregon's state bird, the Western Meadowlark and other grassland species;
  • Lights-out programs to reduce bird collisions with buildings during migration;
  • Backyard habitat and certification programs to help residential property owners create bird friendly backyards;
  • Training programs for oil spill wildlife response volunteers;

Why is it important that bird lovers help fund wild bird conservation initiative in the State of Oregon:

Many of Oregon's bird populations are in trouble. Recent reports show as many as 25% of Oregon species experiencing serious long term declines. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Non-Game program manages  all species which are not hunted or fished in Oregon,  88% of the species, including most of the bird species, found in the Oregon! This program has been historically woefully under-funded. The non-game program currently receives less than 2% of the ODFW budget and may see even further cuts in the face of an unprecedented budget crisis.

The reason for the disparity between funding levels of game and non-game species is that for decades, hunters and fishermen have paid a 10% tax on hunting and fishing gear which directly funds conservation of game species. It is no coincidence that in the recent State of the Birds Report released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, waterfowl, most of which are hunted, were cited as an example of bird species which have made a tremendous comeback over the past several decades while almost all other categories of birds (forest, coastal, aridland, and grassland) have seen major declines.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act begins to remedy this disparity and represents a critical step toward providing a permanent, stable source of funding for wild bird conservation efforts in Oregon.

Accountability: The funding from the Wild Bird Conservation Act would be managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with oversight from a stakeholder group including representatives from conservation organizations and birdseed retailers. The Wild Bird Conservation Act has a sunset clause in 2018 which would require evaluation of the program prior to renewal.

Are you wiling to pay "a nickel for the birds?" We need your help to pass this legislation to protect our wild birds. The legislative session will kick-off in February and it will be critical that our legislators hear from people who care about birds that they are willing to pay and extra nickel a pound for bird seed to protect Oregon's birds.

This effort is being funded through a generous grant from Audubon and Toyota via the TogetherGreen Program

Other 2011 Audubon Oregon Legislative Priorities:

  • Wildlife Penalty Legislation to expand upon the success of the 2009 legislation by increasing penalties for the worst wildlife crimes;
  • Marine Reserves to expand upon the success of the 2009 legislative session by adding new reserves critical native fish and sea bird populations;
  • Wind Farm Legislation to help ensure that wind farm development is adequately reviewed to ensure appropriate siting to reduce impacts on birds and other wildlife;
  • Ban the Bag Legislation to reduce persistent bird killing plastic garbage in the environment;
  • Statewide "No Feed" Ordinance to reduce intentional habitation of wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, deer and bear to human handouts.

To learn more about Audubon's Legislative Agenda, please sign-up to be part of Audubon's Conservation Team or contact Audubon's Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger at bsallinger@audubonportland.org.

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