Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not a Good Time to Be a Bird

The pressure on our birds is becoming downright oppressive.  Pesticides (some of which are on bird feed), habitat loss and some plain stupid legislation (and proposed legislation) is making it harder and harder for birds to successfully live and breed. This is potentially a huge loss for everyone--not just those of us who love to watch the birds.

I thought I would share some recent reports and news articles to illustrate the points.

Birds are very dependent upon private land owners. More than 60 % of land in the U.S. is privately owned--in Texas it is more like 90%.  As long as private land owners continue to preserve habitat, birds have places conducive to breeding. The annual State of the Birds report talks about just how critical private land is. If you want the condensed version, here is a fact sheet.

Congress is certainly not helping the situation, especially the House of Representatives, which seems to have lost any hint of rationality. The Senate passed a decent Farm Bill, but the House failed to produce any legislation, letting themselves hold the legislation hostage over food stamps. Although I often have heartburn over many of the items in the Farm Bill, we stand to lose a lot more if something doesn't pass. For a good summary of what birds and other important conservation programs may lose, read "Farm Bill Disappointment" in the July issue of The Birding Community e-Bulletin. As if that is not bad enough, you can follow that up with a review of the evisceration of most of our federal natural resources conservation programs as proposed in the House. If these programs are important to you, these proposed pieces of legislation are likely to make you cry. Your representative is home now on a break, so it is a good time to let him know how you feel about the House's action. However, let it be known that Congressman Thornberry did NOT go along with his fellow House members in the case of the Farm Bill, so I would express appreciation to him on that score if you have the chance. I don't know his feelings on the proposed appropriations bill for the Interior Department. You may want to ask him.

These actions illustrate how short term political gamesmanship can act as a nuclear option to wipe out programs that have had enormous long term benefit for our country.

I don't often talk politics in this blog, but if you love birds (and other wildlife), you need to start watching our elected representatives more closely because they have been mixing something with the Kool-aid there in Washington and it is affecting brain cells (and not in a good way.)

Good birding!

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