BALTIMORE (WJZ) — U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Thursday introduced legislation seeking to expand conservation programs helping 380 species of migratory birds, including Maryland’s state bird, the Baltimore Oriole.

Cardin and Portman hope to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and change the funding structure so the cost-sharing requirement for grant recipients would drop from 3-to-1 to 2-to-1. Their bill would also increase funding to more than $20 million over five years.

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“These and other strategic refinements will enable the program to better meet the demonstrated demand for program funds and expand the number of local partners involved in the program,” the lawmakers said in a joint release.

Both the Baltimore Oriole and Ohio’s state bird, the Northern Cardinal, are threatened by pesticide pollution, deforestation, sprawl and invasive species in their habitats.

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“Migratory birds play a crucial role in our ecosystems, our agriculture, and our national and local cultures,” said Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The programs funded by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act have consistent track record of success in helping to sustain populations of migratory birds that face threats to their health and habitats. The reauthorization of this bill marks our continued our commitment to improving our environment and investing in the flora and fauna that help our communities grow and thrive.”

Established in 2000, the law provides funding for habitat protection, education, research and monitoring of birds that summer in the U.S. and winter in Latin America.

Steve Holmer, vice president of policy at the American Bird Conservancy, said the law provides support for Latin American and Caribbean countries where the birds return after mating in the U.S.

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“By increasing NMBCA funding and changing the match requirement, we open the door to greater participation from partner groups, as well as larger projects that are more effective at meeting bird conservation needs,” he said.

Brandon Weigel