The former Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI) took flight amid the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Through this partnership effort, NRCS invested nearly $40 million to create about 470,000 acres of alternative habitat for birds migrating South for winter. Participating states included: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.
MBHI projects provided food and critical habitat for bird populations; much-needed water during drought; support for local economies by attracting hunters and bird watchers; and new opportunities to improve wildlife management.
MBHI, while now retired, was one of the agency’s Landscape Initiatives, which are temporary, targeted conservation efforts to address a particular conservation need, in this case habitat for wetland-dependent birds heading south.
NRCS still uses the MBHI concept as the foundation for other similar NRCS efforts across the country, such as the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Initiative in California. NRCS state offices in Louisiana and Texas also have continued to set aside funds for migratory bird habitat, continuing the investment made through MBHI.
Mississippi State University’s study of MBHI
In February 2015, NRCS announced the findings of a new study by Mississippi State University, which showed how this initiative effectively provided shelter and food for migratory birds. For example, rice fields flooded early through MBHI were home to an average 15 migratory birds per acre, compared to two birds per acre on rice fields not flooded. See more findings.