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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Take More Action II: More Bird Legislation

A few days ago I began listing some bird-related legislation currently in Congress. I'll continue that list now.

A note from someone who has worked with constituent mail in a Congressman's office: CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE. They notice. Especially if you are writing (or calling or visiting) about a piece of legislation that isn't the current 'hot' topic. If you are one of thousands you'll get a form letter, if you are one of one you'll get a researched and personalized letter from a staff member (which will be read and signed personally by the member). It's weird how it works this way, but for all the letters we got about Social Security, I know just as much about that topic as I do about why ham radio operators want access to small Caribbean wildlife reserves. It's just the way it works.

So, if any of these bills light a fire in your belly, CONTACT CONGRESS.

H.R. 3468: The Hawaii Invasive Species Prevention Act
Hawaii has a long, unfortunate, history of losing its endemic species to introduced predators. The bill would direct the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to: "(1) impose a quarantine on Hawaii to prevent the introduction of invasive species and diseases in Hawaii; (2) establish a system of post-arrival quarantine protocols for all persons, baggage, cargo, containers, packing materials, and other items traveling or being shipped to Hawaii from domestic and foreign locations; and (3) establish an expedited process for Hawaii to seek the Secretaries' approval to impose additional prohibitions or restrictions on the introduction or movement of invasive species or diseases. Authorizes Hawaii to impose additional emergency prohibitions or restrictions for up to two years pending such approval." Will it work? Maybe. Is it worth it to try? Absolutely.

H.R. 3187: Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program Act
I don't need to say anything to remind birders of the importance of our coastlines and estuaries, but I will anyway: Red Knot. This bill would create a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, a body that would give grants to states with approved coastal zone management plans. It also provides $5 million for a regional watershed protection demonstration project that would, among other things, enhance protected areas under the National Estuarine Research Reserve program.

S. 1897: Act to Save America's Forests
The standout proposals in this piece of legislation are the designation of "special areas which shall be subject to restrictions on road construction and logging" in 26 states and the proposal to "prohibit clearcutting or other even-age logging operations on any stand or watershed on certain federal land, National Forest System land, and National Wildlife Refuge System land. Provides for federal enforcement and a private right of action."

Personally, I don't know how I feel about clear-cutting. Growing up I had always been adamantly opposed to it on principal, but working for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation in NY this past summer has changed my views a bit. Selected clearcuts can actually increase the total number of species in an area by creating habitats that wouldn't be possibly in a thinned or untouched forest. When a forest is clearcut, fast-growing plants like berry bushes and grasses are the first to grow back. These plants, which wouldn't survive in a forest where tall trees block the sunlight before it reaches the floor, host birds like warblers or towhees that would otherwise not be able to live there. So, though the number of individual old-growth species in a forest (i.e. owls) would decrease, the total number of species would increase. That's all I'm saying.

S.1540: The Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program Act
This bill would establish the MRGESCP (nice acronym) to protect Silvery Minnow and Willow Flycatcher habitat on the Rio Grande. This is one of those bills (which I am always wary of) that try to save habitat while still "allowing continued water development." I'm sure this bill would benefit Rio Grande Endangered Species, but it's important to note that sometimes organizations can use language in supposedly eco-friendly legislation to cover up their harmful practices.
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