DC Should Protect Migrating Birds From Collisions With Buildings

of Catherine Plume
Sierra Club DC Chapter before the
Committee of the Whole regarding
B24-0710 – the Migratory Local Wildlife Protection Act of 2022
October 21, 2022

I’m Catherine Plume, an elected member of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club DC Chapter. I’m also a lifelong environmentalist, a 20+-year District resident, and a proud resident of Ward 4. Thank you, Chairman Mendelson for convening this hearing regarding bill B24-0710 – the Migratory Local Wildlife Protection Act of 2022.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest environmental advocacy group. We are a grassroots organization with chapters in every state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Here in DC we have nearly 3,000 dues-paying members and more than 10,000 supporters. I doubt that anyone at this hearing today will be surprised to learn that the Sierra Club strongly supports this bill. We are proud to advocate together with our environmental partner organizations across the District including City Wildlife, the DC Environmental Network, DC Voters for Animals, the Anacostia Parks and Community Collaborative, and many more to urge the entire DC Council to unanimously support this bill.

You’ve heard sobering facts today from my environmental peers.

  • Bird populations in North America are declining rapidly. Since 1970, nearly 3 billion breeding birds have been lost, representing 29% of our total bird populations. Glass collisions contribute significantly to this decline.
  • Since 2010 when City Wildlife initiated its Lights Out DC program, they’ve documented more than 4,500 bird strikes, largely in a small area of downtown, and 85% of these collisions were fatal. As new glass buildings are built the number of collisions is increasing dramatically.

Why do we believe the Council should pass this bill? Our reasoning is four-fold.

  1. Nature is important to the wellbeing of any city. It provides innumerable environmental services including respite, places to recreate, and beauty. Nature without birdlife—or without the full diversity of birds that naturally occur in an area is incomplete. They’re also working on our behalf—pollinating plants, dispersing seeds, scavenging carcasses, and recycling nutrients back into the Earth. The District is located in the mid Atlantic flyway. Every Spring and Fall, millions of birds pass through the District as they migrate. And, we are fortunate to have our own resident bird population. The Sierra Club likes birds, and we believe we have a moral obligation to ensure their safety.
  2. This bill provides a practical means for reducing bird death. Under the provisions of this bill, developers will have a wide range of options. Bird-friendly glass products are now readily available from a wealth of manufacturers. Louvers, screens, or solar controls can also be effective in preventing collisions. The cost of these measures is small—and often zero. Installing bird-friendly glass is the most expensive option and even that only increases the cost to one-tenth to one-half of one percent of the total construction cost. The Sierra Club supports pragmatic and cost-effective solutions, like those in this bill, that conserve nature.
  3. Bird-friendly design can actually save money through more efficient energy use. In New York, renovation of the Javits Center included bird-friendly design components, which helped reduce heating, cooling, and lighting costs by 25%. The Sierra Club believes in conserving energy.
  4. Other US cities and states—New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto, the states of Illinois and Minnesota, and many other jurisdictions already have laws in place requiring bird-friendly glass. DC is lagging behind on this issue. The Sierra Club DC Chapter is proud of the District’s environmental progress. The Sierra Club believes we should add bird-friendly policies to the District’s environmental portfolio.

In summary, the Sierra Club likes birds, we like cost-effective and pragmatic solutions like those presented in this bill to conserve nature, we believe in conserving energy, and we believe that the District should add bird- friendly policies to its environmental portfolio. We like this bill. We respectfully and strongly urge the Council to vote in favor of this bill.

Again, Chairman Mendelson, thank you for convening this hearing. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.