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Water: Wetlands

Bird Conservation: Related EPA Programs

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Each of the following EPA programs or activities was selected because it is significant in terms of providing protection to bird populations and their habitats or furthering our scientific knowledge of ecosystem functions and threats to the health of those systems.

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This page provides links to non-EPA web sites that provide additional information about this topic. You will leave the EPA.gov domain, and EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information on that non-EPA page. Providing links to a non-EPA Web site is not an endorsement of the other site or the information it contains by EPA or any of its employees. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (see Privacy and Security Notice) may not be available at the external link. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Wetlands Protection

Wetlands are a critical habitat type for many species of birds who use them for breeding, feeding, wintering, or as migratory stopover sites. EPA is actively involved in a wide variety of activities whose goal is to protect or restore wetlands. These responsibilities range from the regulatory permit program for dredged or fill material under section 404 of the Clean Water Act to diverse projects designed to assist States and Indian Tribes in developing wetlands programs, develop technical tools and guidance, promote a better understanding of wetland functions and values, and support the voluntary restoration of wetlands by local communities. The following links highlight some of the areas most relevant to bird conservation.

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Coastal Management and Marine Protection

Coastal ecosystems with their rich array of tidal mudflats, wetlands, beaches, shallow intertidal zones, submerged aquatic vegetation, and unique dune shrub and woodland communities afford many vital habitats for breeding, migrating, and wintering birds, especially shorebirds and waterfowl. EPA plays an important role in coastal protection through administration of the National Estuary Program under section 320 of the Clean Water Act and a series of regulatory and other programs under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act; the Clean Water Act; and several other statutes and executive orders. The following links highlight some of the areas most relevant to bird conservation:

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Water Quality and Watershed Protection

Birds, like all living creatures, are dependent on safe and available water for drinking and bathing. For many species of waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, and others, aquatic plants and animals provide their primary food supply. It is therefore critical that such waters be of sufficiently high quality to ensure adequate and contaminant-free food for those species. EPA administers a number of key programs–usually in concert with State and Tribal partners–to protect and restore water quality in streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and other waters. EPA also actively promotes and supports, through a variety of financial and technical assistance vehicles, a comprehensive approach to managing and protecting watersheds or river basins. These diverse, locally driven activities serve not only to enhance water quality management, but also provide a framework for the conservation of other resources such as forests and grasslands, consistent with local priorities and needs. In the aggregate, the thousands of watershed programs and projects that are taking place in the United States enhance the conservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat that is important to birds and other wildlife. The following links highlight some of the EPA programs and initiatives in this area:

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Control of Pesticides, Toxic Substances, and Oil Spills

Regulation of pesticides and toxic substances is of particular importance to bird conservation. Many types of birds have experienced reproductive problems and increased mortality from exposure to toxics and pesticides in the environment, particularly through the consumption of contaminated food. The most well known example is the effects of DDT on Bald Eagles and other birds of prey, which after severe population declines in the mid-20th Century, are beginning to recover, due in large part to better management of pesticides. Oil spills pose a particular problem for seabirds and waterfowl. Working with federal agency and other partners, EPA plays a key role in coordinating and implementing oil spill prevention and cleanup. The following links highlight key activities in this area:

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Geographic Initiatives

In addition to the programs that EPA administers on a nationwide basis, the agency administers, participates in, or supports a number of significant geographic initiatives that range in size from an individual watershed to the entire Gulf of Mexico region. The nature and activities of these programs are as varied as their size, but they are all important for bird conservation in helping focus public and private resources and expertise, authorities at all levels of government, and the collective energies of thousands of people on issues such as ecosystem management and habitat conservation and restoration. The following links highlight the major geographic initiatives in which EPA is a significant participant:

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Research and Assessment

As with any group of living organisms, there are many more scientific questions about birds for which we need answers. These questions may range from basic biological processes to ecological relationships of birds to their environment to appropriate conservation practices. Additionally, birds can serve as important indicators of environmental quality more broadly, as enshrined in the common metaphor of the "canary in the coal mine." To help answer these questions, EPA–often in collaboration with others–conducts a variety of basic and applied research projects through its own research programs, through extramural grants to academic institutions, and through landscape-scale environmental assessment programs carried out through broad partnerships with other agencies and organizations. Although birds are only rarely the primary subject of EPA research and assessment programs, the scientific information gathered is often critical to designing and implementing strategies to conserve ecosystems and wildlife, including birds. The links below highlight some of the key activities in this area:

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Environmental Assessment and Review

Like all federal agencies, EPA is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate the environmental impacts of its own activities through preparation of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Additionally, EPA has the unique responsibility of reviewing the EISs of all other federal agencies and maintaining a public record of that review. Because many federal projects are large and affect significant land and water resources, this program is an important mechanism in conserving bird habitats and populations. To learn more about this program, check out the link below:

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Cross-Cutting Initiatives

EPA is engaged in a number of initiatives with a focus on integrating environmental protection within a broad ecosystem or landscape framework, highlighting the relationship between environmental health and economic prosperity. These initiatives have as their centerpiece providing information, training, tools, and other support to local communities. Such communities are in the best position to identify their needs and problems and to marshall the talents and energies of citizens and organizations in taking appropriate action. While these activities encompass the full array of environmental, social, and economic issues, they provide a very productive framework for protecting birds and their habitats.

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Executive Order 13186: Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds

Migratory birds are of great ecological and economic value to this country and to other countries. They contribute to biological diversity and bring tremendous enjoyment to millions of Americans who study, watch, feed, or hunt these birds throughout the United States and other countries. The United States has recognized the critical importance of this shared resource by ratifying international, bilateral conventions for the conservation of migratory birds. Such conventions include the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds with Great Britain on behalf of Canada 1916, the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals (Mexico 1936), the Convention for the Protection of Birds and Their Environment (Japan 1972), and the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Birds and Their Environment (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 1978).

These migratory bird conventions impose substantive obligations on the United States for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, and through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Act), the United States has implemented these migratory bird conventions with respect to the United States.  Executive Order 13186: Responsibilities of Federal Agencies To Protect Migratory Birds (PDF) (4 pp, 40K, About PDF) directs executive departments and agencies to take certain actions to further implement the Act.

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