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DVOC Main Page > Conservation > Conservation Corner 2011


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Arctic Birding Challenge
Dead Barn Owls
House Budget Bill Threatens Bird Conservation Funding and Programs
San Francisco's Draft Bird-Safe Building Standards
Marcellus Shale Drilling Impact
Delaware River Ambassador Program Opportunity
PA Bald Eagle Management Plan

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Conservation Corner - a running list of issues of interest to our members

The Arctic Refuge Spring Migration Birding Challenge
(Submitted 4/22/11 by Phil Witmer - Conservation Committee Chairperson)

The Arctic Refuge Migration Birding Challenge is back for the spring! Birds that breed in the Arctic Refuge have ranges that reach all 50 states and 6 continents. How many can you find in your state?
The reigning champs, the Mississippi Team, spotted 87 species for the fall migration challenge. Want to try to top that?

The Contest
Gather a team. Scour the countryside for birds on the Arctic Refuge checklist ( ). Submit your checklist by May 31. We’ll announce the winners (yes, there are prizes!) on June 15.
For contest rules, prizes, and species checklist, go to, or contact Taldi Walter at or 202-861-2242 ext. 3042.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Seeks Information on Dead Barn Owls
(Submitted 2/24/11 by Phil Witmer - Conservation Committee Chairperson)

Click Here for a press release on this issue.

House Budget Bill Threatens Bird Conservation Funding and Programs
(Submitted 2/18/11 by Phil Witmer - Conservation Committee Chairperson)

To: Bird Conservation Alliance
From: Anne Law, American Bird Conservancy
Date: February 17, 2011

The House of Representatives is now debating H.R. 1, the Full Year Continuing Resolution for 2011, with votes taking place throughout last week. The bill includes destructive funding cuts and policy provisions that would severely harm our wildlife and other natural resources.

Your Representative needs to hear from you that you support our nation’s effort to conserve birds. Please call your Representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202/224-3121. Urge them to vote no on H.R. 1 and to vote against the amendments harmful to bird conservation listed below.

State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program
H.R. 1 zeroes out funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program which was funded previously at $90 million. The program was created by Congress in 2000 to assist states with their voluntary efforts to protect the more than 12,000 at-risk wildlife species around the United States from becoming endangered. The program leverages more than $100 million per year in state, tribal, local, and private dollars that directly support jobs in virtually all states. Eliminating this program also undermines the federal government’s ten year investment in State Wildlife Action Plans.

North American Wetlands Conservation Fund
H.R. 1 zeroes out funding for the North American Conservation Fund which was funded previously at $47.6 million. Half of the original wetlands in the United States have already been lost. Eliminating funding for this program will exacerbate declines of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife dependent on wetlands. This program has levered over $2 billion in matching funds affecting 20 million acres through the work of more than 4,000 partners and fostered public and private sector cooperation for migratory bird conservation, flood control, erosion control, and water quality. For every dollar of money invested in the program, an average of 3.2 dollars is raised to match the federal share by non-federal entities.

Clean Water Act
H.R. 1 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing, administering, or enforcing a change to a rule or guidance document pertaining to the definitions of waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Recent court decisions have created confusion in the implementation of the CWA, which protects the nation’s waters and wetlands. The proposed language protects the recent loopholes and jeopardizes the EPA’s authority to protect some 20 million acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat from development and degradation.

Other Programs Impacted by H.R. 1:

• Zeroes out the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act which is the federal government’s primary means to help the states and territories carry out conservation projects to benefit threatened and endangered species.
• Cuts $65 million from the Operations Budget of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) which had been previously funded at $1.204 billion. This would drastically impact FWS staff from being able to monitor and protect endangered species, and to keep birds and other wildlife populations healthy.
• Cuts funding requested for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $59 million, an 86 percent from Fiscal Year 2010 enacted levels and the lowest level in its 45 year history. This program provides protection for lands in our national wildlife refuges, parks, forests, and other public lands and also for state conservation of open space and wildlife habitat through a small percentage of oil and drilling receipts. These are not taxpayer dollars.
• Cuts $12 million from the National Wildlife Refuge System which is currently funded at $491 million. This will likely mean the Refuge system will have to cut staff and neglect important restoration and management projects as well as basic facility maintenance.
• A permanent cut of almost 50,000 acres to the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
• A cut of over $350 million from the Environmental Quality Assistance Program (EQUIP)
• A cut of $170 million from the USDA National Resource Conservation Service

Amendments to be offered on the House Floor by Members

In addition to the cuts already in H.R. 1, Representatives can also offer amendments on the House floor. Currently there are 583 amendments that have been filed for consideration. Of particular interest to ABC are:

• Amendment 85 offered by Rep. Pompeo would have zeroed out the remaining $7.4 million for the USDA Forest Service International Program which supports an array of effective bird conservation projects;
• Amendment 293 offered by Rep. McClintock that would zero out funding for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grant program, which protects declining bird species found throughout the United States. H.R. 1 funded the program at $4.430 million;
• Amendment 557 by Rep. Gardner would prohibit EPA from regulating any use of any chemical present in hunting or fishing equipment, not just those limited uses. This amendment would take away EPA’s authority to regulate lead bullets and fishing gear.

Currently out of the three amendments listed above the only one that has been considered was Amendment 85 which fortunately was defeated. The House is scheduled to be in session late into tonight and for the rest of this week and are aiming to pass H.R. 1 by the end of this week. Attached is a community sign on letter that ABC signed onto urging House members to oppose all anti-environmental amendments. (Unfortunately due to the sheer number of amendments offer it is not comprehensive.) In addition, also attached is a more detailed spreadsheet description of the anti-environmental riders.

The Senate has already signaled that they will not take up the House bill and have begun work on a Senate version. President Obama has also publicly stated that he will veto the House bill so there will most likely be another short term Continuing Resolution.

If anyone has any additional questions and or concerns please contact me at or call 202/234-7181. We will send another update once the bill has passed.

San Francisco's Draft Bird-Safe Building Standards
(Submitted 2/8/11 by Phil Witmer - Conservation Committee Chairperson)

Energy Report Finds Lands, Wildlife Endangered by Marcellus Shale Well
(Submitted 1/26/11 by Doug Gross who spoke at our January 20th meeting)

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) released Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment Report 1: Marcellus Shale Natural Gas and Wind on 15 November 2010, detailing the environmental impacts that could accompany natural gas and wind energy development in Pennsylvania. The report, based on data from development permits, roads and transmission infrastructure, and other sources, focuses on the effects on forest, fresh water, rare species, and habitat. It does not address water issues, air quality, or the potential danger of wind turbines to migratory birds and bats.

The Marcellus Shale is a formation from the Devonian period rich in natural gas due to its organic content. Stretching across several Mid-Atlantic States, including Pennsylvania, the shale is buried over a mile below the surface. To extract it, deep wells must be drilled, and hydraulic fracturing methods are employed to release the gas from surrounding rock. The report found that an average of 9 acres is consumed by each Marcellus Shale well pad. Adjacent lands were also affected through fragmentation and the creation of the “edge” effect, where forest at the perimeter of a clearing becomes less functional as wildlife habitat. There are currently 1000 Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania. TNC’s report projects that by 2030 there will be 7,000 to 16,000 well pads in the state, supporting as many as 60,000 new wells. However, the report concluded that damage to forest habitat could be significantly reduced by moving well pads to open areas or to the edge of forest patches.

Fears about the potential harmful effects of natural gas development to wildlife have been realized inWyoming: a new study by Western Ecosystems Technology Inc. shows that mule deer populations on Wyoming’s Pinedale Anticline have dropped by 60% since drilling began on Bureau of Land Management lands in 2000. The Pinedale Anticline serves as crucial wintering ground for the mule deer and is now one of the most productive natural gas fields in the country.

Sources: E&E News, LLC (E&E News PM), Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Nature Conservancy.

Delaware River Ambassador Program
(Submitted by Phil Witmer, 1/18/2011)

What is a River Ambassador?
Think of an ambassador as a leader who cares about the Delaware River and wants to share their enthusiasm, experiences and knowledge with others. The ambassador program is similar to a docent program used by museums, zoos and historical societies.

Go to for full information on this program.

PA Bald Eagle Management Plan Goes Public and Asks for Comments
(Submitted by Phil Witmer, 1/4/2011)

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on a draft bald eagle management plan. We seek your comments on this plan. As one of our eagle management and conservation partners, we very much respect your contributions to the successful Bald Eagle management, monitoring, and education programs and would appreciate hearing your perspectives and criticisms of any aspects of the plan that you would like to share with us. Your comments really are very important to us and the future success of eagles in the state.

The new plan can be reviewed on the agency’s website ( by clicking on the “Draft Eagle Management Plan” icon under the large photo in the center of the homepage.

Public comments on the agency’s eagle management plan will be accepted until March 3, via the website or by mail to: Eagle Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797. Comments should be submitted by e-mail to

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is at a critical point in its management of Bald Eagles in the state. The Bald Eagle program has been very successful and it is appropriate to make some changes in approach and goals. As written, the plan is science-based, progressive and promotes responsible management of Bald Eagles.

According to the new Bald Eagle plan, the criteria to consider eagles recovered is a self-perpetuating nesting population of at least 150 pairs with a productivity rate of at least 1.2 eaglets per successful nest and 60 percent of known nests successful over a five-year period. This objective is expected to be reached by 2012 if recent population trends continue. Achieving this objective will mark a dramatic success in the recovery of our nation’s symbol here in Pennsylvania.

Protections and management of this species will continue under the authority of the national Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal and state laws. The agency will continue to protect eagle nests from disturbance and also turn to more proactive, educational, and cooperative measures to advance the conservation of the species. At this point, there are over 190 active nesting pairs in the state. The nesting population has been growing at about 15% per year for the last two decades. We anticipate widespread cooperation with the agency’s plan including monitoring, protection, and management. The Bald Eagle has recolonized parts of the state where it has not nested in over 100 years. This brings it in more contact with humans, bringing both opportunities and challenges.

For more information about the eagles, visit the Game Commission’s website ( and put your cursor on “Wildlife” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Endangered Species” and then click on “Bald Eagle” in the list of “Threatened Species.”