Celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty!

Canada geese flying over William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Photo credit: George Gentry/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

One hundred years ago, on August 16, 1916, the U.S. and Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, signed the first Migratory Bird Treaty to recognize the significance and international importance to conserve, protect and manage migratory birds and their habitats. Two years later in 1918, Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to implement the Treaty — still known today as one of the most effective conservation laws ever created.

This week, the USFWS, Refuge Association, and numerous partners are working together to celebrate this historic achievement. It is estimated that this groundbreaking wildlife conservation treaty saved billions of our feathered friends.

In the late 1800s, millions of migratory birds were overexploited and some of America’s most iconic species, such as the passenger pigeon and labrador duck, had become extinct. To help protect migratory birds, the first national wildlife refuge was created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. With support from groups like the National Audubon Society, a movement was sparked that centered around bird conservation. Today, there are 565 national wildlife refuges and almost all protect habitat for migratory birds.

FlywaysMigratory birds require a wide variety of suitable habitats, breeding grounds, wintering grounds, and stopover sites for food to make a safe journey throughout the year. After the Migratory Bird Treaty was ratified, the U.S. signed three international conventions with Mexico, Russia and Japan to protect migratory species across international borders, to increase international understanding and collaboration, and to unify our conservation efforts.

National wildlife refuges have some of the best migratory bird-watching spectacles in the world. In the spring, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey attracts thousands of migratory birds such as red knots, sandpipers, sanderlings, and dunlins that feast on horseshoe crabs eggs. Over 1,000 bald eagles call Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Oregon home for the winter, which is the largest concentration of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Endangered whooping cranes migrate 2,500 miles south from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas in the fall. Many of us are most familiar with the yearly migration of Canada geese as they travel in a “flying-v” north and south. As individuals, we can contribute to the protection of all migratory species. And in fact, these days, you can find websites showing bird migrations on Doppler radar as it happens!

Migratory birds connect people to nature and provide significant ecological, economic, aesthetic and recreational benefits. $107 billion is spent on bird-watching equipment and travel in the U.S, and migratory bird hunting supports 66,274 jobs and contributed $7.3 billion to local economies. Migratory birds also play vital roles in the ecosystem where they pollinate plants, control insect and rodent populations and disperse seeds.

The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – aka the ”Duck Stamp” is a federal license required for hunting migratory waterfowl that also provides free entrance into any national wildlife refuge. Since it’s introduction in 1934, the Duck Stamp has leased or purchased over 6 million acres of wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. 98 percent of the funds support critical wetland habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds and wildlife. The Duck stamp has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated.

“We are proud of what the United States, its partnering nations, organizations, and supporters like you have done to protect our migratory birds and we look forward to another 100 years of continued success and collaboration,” said Refuge Association President, David Houghton.

Throughout the week, the Refuge Association will be sharing awe-inspiring stories about migratory birds on our Instagram account highlighting their unique niche within our ecosystems and the actions that you can take to get involved.

  • Follow the Refuge Association on Instagram to learn about incredible migratory birds
  • Use the hashtag #birdyear and #birdfacts to show your support on social media
  • Purchase a Federal Duck Stamp to support bird conservation. 98% of the funds directly support wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/08/celebrate-the-centennial-anniversary-of-the-migratory-bird-treaty/

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