Undecided about what to do on Earth Day? I have two suggestions for you:
1. Call or write your representative in Congress and ask him or her to co-sponsor the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act (H.R. 2593). It's our best chance to check what can only be described as a mad dash to construct Berlin Wall-style fences along our border with Mexico. Yes, border security is important, but pursuing it doesn't have to be mindless. We need to slow down enough at least to comprehend what we stand to lose -- and it's a lot.
Endangered species, critical habitat, migratory birds, Bald Eagles, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, native American graves -- they're all at risk, and so are some of our most popular birding sites.
Did you know that current plans call for the wall in Texas to be erected north of the National Audubon Society's Sabal Palm Grove, north of the Nature Conservancy's Southmost Preserve, and north of parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge? It's true. If we don't act now, we birders will be walled off from these precious places, and they likely will be forced to close.
2. And while you have your representative on the phone, why don't you ask him or her to support the legislation introduced last week by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) that would reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act? Their legislation (H.R. 5756) is the subject of my editorial in the June 2008 issue of Birder's World.
In case you don't already know, the act supports partnership programs to conserve birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Projects include such activities as habitat restoration, research and monitoring, law enforcement, and outreach and education. Between 2002 and 2007, grants enabled by the act supported 225 projects, all of which benefitted bird populations, but too few.
Staffers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency tasked with distributing the grants, say they receive many more requests for high-quality conservation projects than they can currently provide grants for. The proposed reauthorization would address this shortcoming, and it can't happen soon enough.
Happy Earth Day! --C.H.