As many of you know, in August NABCI released a State of the Birds report focused on Farm Bill conservation programs and their benefits to birds. One of NABCI’s key goals with this report is to inform and support a strong Farm Bill reauthorization in 2018, so the report’s release was only the beginning of a hard-hitting communication and outreach effort, targeted specifically at members of Congress who influence what is included in the next Farm Bill.
As part of these efforts, on the night of October 4th, NABCI held a Farm Bill briefing in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. The speaker panel was impressive, with representatives from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative speaking about the importance of Farm Bill conservation programs to different regions, suites of species, general conservation, and private landowners.
This event attracted strong participation from Congressional offices. The briefing was co-sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and Senator John Boozman from Arkansas. Senator Boozeman gave a few remarks to close out the briefing, and a senior staff member for Senator Stabenow spoke as well. Other Senate offices sent staff to the briefing, including the offices of: Senator Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Cardin (MD), Tom Udall (NM), Bernie Sanders (VT), Richard Shelby (AL), Luther Strange (AL), Rob Portman (OH), Pat Roberts (KS), Tom Cotton (AR), John McCain (AZ), and Tim Kaine (VA). The briefing attracted attention from the House of Representatives as well, with participation from the offices of Congressman Ted Yoho (FL), Don Bacon (NE), Chellie Pingree (ME), and Trent Kelly (MS). Many of the staffers were frantically scribbling notes during the presentations- especially during Ken Rosenberg’s presentation, which kicked off the afternoon to give an overview of the Farm Bill State of the Birds.
Although the briefing was excellent, perhaps the highlight of the evening was the subsequent reception, which NABCI co-hosted with the American Forest Foundation and Forest Resources Association. The FRA represents ~500 organizations in the forest products industry. The American Forest Foundation works with family forest owners to promote stewardship and conservation. Bird conservation community members had the opportunity to mingle with private landowners from across the country, major land managers, and other representatives from the forest products industry, and share opportunities for collaboration. One of the best comments overheard was from a private landowner from Alabama, who emphasized that most family forest owners want to do things for conservation - and they are looking for guidance on how.
This event was one of the first in what we hope will be many strong Farm Bill outreach efforts from the bird conservation community. Several Joint Ventures are hosting Congressional field tours this fall, which will highlight projects that are positively influenced by the Farm Bill. Some of our game-focused partnerships are conducting similar tours. NABCI hopes that each of you will consider over the next year how you and your organization can use the State of the Birds report to showcase the importance of a strong Farm Bill to conservation.
Written by Judith Scarl, US Coordinator of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative