Lawmakers Flock to Prevent Birds From Dying in Collisions With Public Buildings
Animal protection advocates in Congress have been trying for over a decade to get the government to take steps to make federal buildings more bird-friendly.
Lawmakers from across the aisle are flocking together to get the government’s landlord to take more action to prevent birds from dying crashing into public buildings.
Reps. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., reintroduced a bill on Thursday that would direct the administrator of the General Services Administration to include to the extent possible, “features, practices and strategies to reduce bird fatalities resulting from collisions with public buildings for each public building constructed, acquired or of which more than 50% of the facade is substantially altered” by GSA.
In order to carry this out, the GSA administrator would have to develop a design guide that would lay out features for reducing bird fatalities throughout all phases of construction and for operation and maintenance of the buildings, such as by “installing interior, exterior and site lighting,” said the bill. The design guide would also include best practices that are recommended by federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations with expertise in bird conservation and representatives from green building certification systems.
The following buildings would be exempt: buildings or sites listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the White House, Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol and their respective grounds. If enacted, no later than October 1 in each fiscal year, the GSA administrator would have to obtain information on compliance and report to Congress on progress.
Quigley, a member of the House Animal Protection Caucus, first introduced this bill in 2010. “When it comes to passing legislation, there is always an issue of bandwidth,” he told the American Bird Conservatory Action Fund in August 2022. “As we have seen over the past few years, the news cycle changes quickly and so does the national attention span. With that being said, it is my priority to keep this top of mind for legislators and ensure its passage.”
The American Bird Conservatory, which is a nonprofit seeking to protect wild birds in their habitats, is a big supporter of this bill.
“This is an important bill, and it has passed the House, twice,” Christine Sheppard, bird collisions campaign manager at the American Bird Conservatory, told Government Executive on Friday. Sheppard said it is “disappointing” there has not been a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate.
“Many bird-friendly design techniques — such as installing screens or grilles on windows and minimizing the use of glass on lower floors — are already used in some federal buildings to control heat and light, or for security,” and this bill would expand that, the nonprofit said in March 202l. “As many as 1 billion birds a year die in collisions with buildings in the United States alone.”
The nonprofits Animal Welfare Institute and U.S. Green Building Council have also endorsed the bill.
“Just as the federal government is a leader in sustainable, energy efficient buildings, this bill will ensure it leads in protecting birds as well, showing the private sector that there are proven, science-based and cost-effective strategies that work to reduce the risk of bird collisions,” Elizabeth Beardsley, senior policy counsel at the council, said in a statement provided to Government Executive on Friday.
GSA did not respond for comment on the bill.