Saturday, May 20, 2023

Just a Bill

Finally! This was a long time in coming:

The skies will be safer for birds and buildings will be more energy-efficient thanks to a new state law signed this month. The Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 requires new and renovated buildings with 51% of funding from the state to protect birds from window collisions and to conserve energy. Read how to make your windows safer:

- - The Howard County Conservancy

In 2020, Howard County became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to pass legislation for bird-friendly design standards. I remember writing at the time:

Similar legislation was brought up in the Maryland State legislature in 2019, I believe, although it didn’t get any traction. I remember a discussion about this on Episode 54 of Elevate Maryland with Roughly Speaking’s Mileah Kromer and Luke Broadwater. I seem to remember that some legislators didn’t take this topic at all seriously.

Episode 54 was taped in front of a live audience at Clarksville Commons. Although plagued by issues with ambient noise, the Clarksville Commons shows were always my favorites. This particular episode was a recap of the Maryland Legislative session and featured journalist LukeBroadwater and Mileah Kromer of Goucher Polls. I went back through old blog posts to see what I had said.

Here it is: only a cryptic, one-line mention, alas.

I’d be interested in what you think about the window bill they discuss near the end.

I went to Apple Podcasts to see if I could relisten to that section of the episode but it only goes back to episode 56. Sheesh. 

I guess the reason I’m writing about this today is that I formed a kind of attachment to this legislation after  learning about it during the podcast-taping in 2019. It felt like the underdog that no one seemed to take seriously. I’m all about the underdog. I have a soft spot in my heart for birds, as well. 

Maryland Legislature Considers Bird Friendly Building Design, American Bird Conservancy, February, 2018

The legislation was championed by a group called Safe Skies Maryland. The timeline I am seeing shows that it was first introduced in 2018. This year, in 2023, it finally became law in the state of Maryland. The wheels of government can turn mighty slowly, especially if you’re a bird who can’t vote or make political donations. 

Collisions with windows and other structures claim one billion birds per year. - - Safe Skies Maryland 

The new Maryland law applies to new buildings, and only some new buildings. It doesn’t require retrofitting older structures to be bird safe. It makes no requirements of individual homeowners but that won’t stop you from taking action yourself if you are so moved. For example, here’s a photo of bird-safe decals in use at the Howard County Conservancy. 

Photo from Howard County Conservancy  

A few lessons to take away from this story:

  • When it comes to state legislation, you really have to keep at it.
  • It’s possible that the Big Money in Maryland State politics is not to be found in backing the birds.
  • My ongoing interest in this issue was sparked by listening to/attending one podcast. 
When we talk about community issues we often discuss the struggle to make sure that people and informed and want to engage. How to reach people? Local print media is limited and quickly disappearing. We have no Columbia/HoCo radio or television stations. Locally we are dependent on social media, word of mouth, and real-life experiences.

I had a real-life experience in 2019, eating dinner and drinking a beer at Clarksville Commons, that sparked my interest in an issue I had never even heard about. It’s 2023 and I’m still following it.

Never underestimate those real-life experiences.

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