Withdrawal of migratory bird protection delayed by new administration

“It is right to delay the implementation of the Trump administration’s illegal withdrawal of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer of the National Audubon Society. “This delay will allow for a complete re-evaluation of the rule change and we hope that this critical bird protection will be restored.”

The Biden government announced today that it will delay the implementation of a rollback of MBTA protection that was completed a few weeks before the inauguration. The policy change by the Trump administration ignored the intent and language of the Birds Protection and Conservation Act.

“It is clear that the new administration is heeding the courts and hearing the myriad of Americans, state, tribal and international officials and other leaders who said this rollback was bad policy,” Greenberger said.

Whooping Crane, Copyright Carolyn Fields, from the Surfbirds Galleries

New scientific evidence has shown that 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970 and that two-thirds of these birds are threatened with extinction due to climate change. In the face of these alarming reports, the National Audubon Society advocates a multi-front approach to re-establish the longstanding and prudent interpretation of this constitution.

“This is an important opportunity not only to restore the original guidelines, but also to strengthen the MBTA by putting in place an appropriate approval process to manage minor inspections,” said Greenberger. “We look forward to working with the Biden administration to make this happen.”

Just last month, Audubon and several other conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the final ruling. The case is now to be heard by judge Valerie Caproni, who lifted the legal basis for the rollback in August 2020. The Trump administration completed the rollback despite Judge Caproni’s decision.

The change by the Trump administration focused on enforcing “side effects”. Attempts have been made to limit the protection of the MBTA only to activities that deliberately kill birds and to exclude all industrial hazards from enforcement. Any “accidental” death – no matter how inevitable, preventable, or devastating to birds – became immune to legal enforcement. If that change had happened in 2010, BP under the MBTA would not have had any impact on the more than one million birds killed in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“We also hope that Congress will pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act to clarify this longstanding protection and approve this sound approach,” Greenberger said.

The Migratory Bird Protection Act was passed by the House Committee on Natural Resources at the 116th Congress and had a non-partisan group of over 90 co-sponsors. The bill would ensure the protection of birds and direct the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop a “random sampling” permitting process through which relevant companies would implement best management practices and document compliance to innovate in the best possible prevention to advance the death of birds. It would have to be reintroduced in this Congress to be considered again.


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