Press Release


URBAN TREATY FOR BIRD CONSERVATION UNVEILED

– Tweety Named Official Spokesbird –

New Orleans, LA (June 13, 1999) – Birds of a feather flocked together today to protect America’s songbird populations when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of New Orleans, and Warner Bros.’ Legendary animated canary, Tweety, joined forces to sign the first Urban Treaty for Bird Conservation. The announcement was made today at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting.

The Urban Treaty pilot program, designed to help cities conserve migratory bird populations and their habitat through voluntary partnerships, recognizes the crucial role that urban communities can play in migratory bird conservation efforts.

Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark praised the commitment of New Orleans and its Mayor, Marc Morial, to urban bird conservation.

"We are extremely pleased to announce this partnership with the City of New Orleans, at a time when the importance of urban bird conservation is increasingly recognized. By taking steps to conserve birds and their habitats, we can also make our communities better places to live," Clark said.

New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial said the Urban Treaty program will help his city expand bird conservation education in urban schools and improve habitat for birds.

"The vitality of native bird populations is an indication of the health of an entire ecosystem. The unique birds of New Orleans, immortalized by the paintings and impressions of naturalist John James Audubon, have always been a precious resource," said Morial. "We are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for helping us continue eco-positive practices in New Orleans."

As part of the program, Tweety will share his wit and wisdom to raise awareness of steps that can be taken to ensure survival of birds in the urban environment.

"The lovable cat and canary team of Sylvester and Tweety has entertained audiences over the years with their cat-chasing-bird antics. Tweety has proven to be an expert at survival and, on behalf of his feathered friends, will help educate the American people on the importance of urban bird conservation," said Dan Romanelli, President, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Birds are a critical component of every ecosystem, and are an excellent indicator of the overall health of the environment. But they have a special significance in urban areas that transcend their place in the natural world. In an age of increasing urbanization, they may represent the only day-to-day contact many people have with wildlife.

Clark noted that the type of habitat that attracts birds in urban areas – parks, greenways, and tree-lined streets, for example – directly improves the quality of life in any community. In addition, bird watching and other bird-related activities generate direct economic benefits, an estimated $29 billion for the U.S. economy in 1996 alone.

Some of America’s most recognized birds, including blue jays and the wood thrush, commonly make their nests in urban areas. Populations of these species and others are declining, giving cities an unprecedented chance to contribute to the future of bird conservation.

The Service’s Office of Migratory Bird Management developed the Urban Treaty pilot program in the hope that it may serve as a model for future habitat restoration and education partnerships, selecting the City of New Orleans to be the first Urban Treaty city. The city has been awarded a $50,000 matching grant by the Service to implement its Urban Treaty, with future designations of other Urban Treaty cities to follow as the pilot program is successfully implemented.

New Orleans includes the 23,000-acre Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s largest urban National Wildlife Refuge, within its city limits. The city offers an excellent opportunity to inaugurate the program in an area known for its native bird resources and its importance as a waystation for birds migrating to and from the Caribbean, Central and South America.

With 517 refuges scattered throughout all 50 states, many of which are near urban areas, the Service is in an ideal position to work with urban communities and their residents on bird conservation initiatives.

The Urban Treaty program will provide a framework to support education programs, habitat restoration an enhancement, and other initiatives mutually agreed upon by the Urban Treaty city and the Service, in consultation with state wildlife agencies.

Cities that sign an Urban Treaty for Bird Conservation with the Service may be eligible for matching grants, technical and educational assistance and other support. The Service will also work with the city to find other conservation partners for Urban Treaty initiatives.

"The Service views this program as a partnership based on the specific needs of each treaty city. We’re open to all creative ideas from cities for ways to conserve and enhance urban bird populations," said Clark.

Urban birds are among the nation’s most vulnerable bird groups. According to the most recent breeding bird survey conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Service, only 31 percent of urban bird species are estimated to have increasing populations. Their generally declining populations probably reflect the cumulative effects of habitat loss, deaths from improper pesticide application, and predation from domestic house cats.

On the other side of the spectrum, some bird species that adapt well to artificial urban environments are causing problems with their overabundance. For example, many urban parks and golf courses are overrun with resident Canada geese, while enormous populations of starlings and pigeons breed disease, destroy habitat and crowd out native species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores national significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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