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Neotropical bird protection bill reported in Senate

Legislation that should please recreational bird watchers has just been reported in the Senate. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported and sent to the Senate floor for a vote S. 969, which would amend and reauthorize the the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The bill would run through FY 19. The report became available online on the congressional website on Thursday, June 12, 2014.

The bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders as Calendar No. 419. No vote has yet been scheduled. The bill would continue funding at the previous level of $6.5 million a year.

The legislation was originally passed in 2000. It provides grants throughout the Americas for protecting neotropical birds. Grant money can go for anything from habitat building to monitoring, research, etc. The bill was introduced a year ago and approved by the committee in February but not reported until last week. The committee did not conduct a hearing on the bill. No companion bill is pending in the House.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill would cost $33 million over the five year period. Because of delays in getting going, CBO assumes only $1 million going out this year and $6 million next year if the bill passes. The next five years would see $7 million in costs per year, CBO assumes.

The bill also includes a provision that says that at least 75 percent of the grant money would have to be spent outside the United States, in other American countries to protect the migratory birds that fly into and over the states.

Of course, to pass legislation, supporters have to bring up the economic aspect. The committee report notes that bird watching has become a very profitable business in the United States. Previous grants have saved about 2 million acres for birds.

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