Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have announced that a coordinated effort with landowners across eight states to protect and feed birds migrating toward the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill zone in the Gulf of Mexico had more than tripled expectations, enrolling more than 470,000 acres.

Wildlife experts estimate more than 50 million birds migrate through the Mississippi, Central, and Eastern Flyways each fall and spring.

"Private landowners play a critically important role in protecting wildlife every single day, and I am proud that so many landowners in these eight states stepped up to be a part of this unprecedented effort to increase migratory bird habitat and protect wildlife from any lingering effects from the oil spill," Vilsack said. "The outpouring of support for this effort far exceeded our expectations, and it will have an impact on countless migratory bird populations for years to come."

The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative is an unprecedented effort created by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service that began on June 28, 2010, when oil was still spilling from the Deepwater Horizon well. The initiative mobilized private landowners to help create alternative and additional habitats to provide healthy food and resting areas for shorebirds, waterfowl and other birds headed for the Gulf.

The initial goal was to enroll 150,000 acres. After landowners expressed extremely strong interest in the program, funding was doubled to $40 million enabling enrollment to reach a total over three times the initial goal.

The Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been conducting similar work primarily on Federal lands adjacent to the spill impact zone in order to minimize potential bird contact with contaminated areas and help address long-term objectives for habitat conservation along the entire Gulf Coast. Much of the work has been funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Recovered Oil Fund, as well as other privately donated funds.