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President Bush Moves to Conserve Birds

WASHINGTON, DC, October 23, 2007 (ENS) - President George W. Bush outlined several conservation measures his administration is taking to benefit birds while speaking Saturday at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland.

He directed that a new State of the Birds report be written, said the U.S. would participate more in an international effort to conserve albatrrosses and petrals, and offered new cooperation with Mexico to protect birds that migrate between the two neighbors.

Many species of birds live part of their lives here in the United States and part in Mexico, the president said. "So we have a strategy to work with Mexico to enhance bird habitats in their country. I've talked about this issue with President [Felipe] Calderon. He shares my concern about making sure there's critical habitat available for our migratory birds."

The Secretaries of State, Interior and Commerce are working with their counterparts in the Mexican government, and nongovernmental organizations are working to undertake important habitat projects in Mexico, said Bush.

"One of the things we have done is we've identified five priority habitats in Mexico. We listened to the experts who pointed us to five important areas and we have provided $4 million to support conservation initiatives there," the president said. He did not immediately identify the priority habitats.

Bush said he has directed federal agencies to "increase U.S. participation" in an international effort to protect coastal and marine migratory birds such as albatrosses and petrels.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels. It urges member nations to minimize seabird bycatch by fishermen, protect the birds' nesting and foraging areas, and confront other threats that jeopardize species listed under the agreement.

Bird advocates had hoped that the president would announce that the United States would become a signatory to this agreement, but he did not.

Nineteen out of 22 species of albatrosses are viewed as threatened due to mortality form longline fishing, lead poisoning, loss of nesting habitat, and predation of eggs and chicks by introduced animals.

"Many bird species are in decline and will require collaboration between governments, conservation groups and private landowners to restore the habitats on which they depend," Bush said.

"We appreciate that President Bush and the First Lady understand the value of birds and the need to boost conservation efforts," said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy at the event. "Birds don't recognize boundaries - geographic or political."

Two-thirds of the bird species that breed in or migrate through the U.S. have declining populations, said Fenwick. Habitat loss and poor habitat management threaten these species, and without improved effort they will continue to decline.

The cerulean warbler, a brilliant blue songbird which breeds in the eastern forests of North America and winters in South America, is a species the American Bird Conservancy is working hard to conserve, but cerulean warblers have declined by 80 percent in the last 40 years.

"Like the proverbial canary in the coalmine, the decline of so many bird species is an indicator of the many environmental challenges society now faces," said Fenwick. "But, as the recovery of the American Bald Eagle has proven, we can reverse population declines with concerted effort, cooperation, and a can-do spirit."

President Bush said he has asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne "to focus on the status of five more species over the next five years," although the Bush administration's term expires in January 2009.

The president has asked the secretary to produce a State of the Birds Report by 2009. "This report will chart our progress, it'll identify species that need additional protections, and help us bring more of America's bird species into a healthy and sustainable status."

"This initiative will build on and expand many of the most effective conservation programs such as Joint Ventures and the Conservation Reserve Program," said Fenwick. "Additional resources for these programs will make a tremendous difference."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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