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One third of US bird species are in peril

Climate change, oil spills imperil birds, according to landmark report.

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Ivory Gulls depend on Arctic Sea ice for feeding. Their population has declined sharply over the last decade.

Will Sweet

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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Thursday unveiled a major new report on the state of US bird populations. Nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats.

But the study may be at least as notable for its blunt statements about climate change and oil and gas development as it is for highlighting the precarious state of bird populations, wildlife experts say.

With many negative references to impacts of oil spills, oil-and-gas development, and climate change on birds, the report represents one of the sharpest breaks yet between the Obama and Bush administrations on environmental matters, these observers say.

“I do see this report as a major departure from what we had been seeing from the federal government in recent years,” says Darin Schroeder, vice president of the American Bird Conservancy.

“Climate change might not have made it into the report if it had come out last year.” Mr. Schroeder, however, credits President Bush for green-lighting the new report on US migratory bird populations, which was approved 18 months ago. There is irony here, however, because Mr. Bush’s Department of Interior was by most accounts a staunch foe of the Endangered Species Act regulations that environmentalists say have led to the population rebound of bald eagles and other species.

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