The Biden administration is pausing on the Trump administration’s last-minute final rule, which extends the scope of the Migratory Birds Treaty Act (MBTA), the country’s centuries-old law protecting migratory birds from destructive actions by industry and individuals, has changed significantly.
The Trump rule was due to go into effect on Monday February 8, but today the Biden Home Office said it had “taken a number of steps to address this misguided decision”. Interior will postpone the effective date of the rule to determine what next steps can be taken, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, primarily tasked with enforcing the MBTA, will have a 20-day public comment period initiate to allow additional engagement on the MBTA rule. Further options for integration are also expected. “
A notice of the deadline for public comments is expected to be published in the federal register at the beginning of next week.
“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a fundamental environmental law that is vital to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations,” said interior spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz. The Trump administration sought to break decades of bipartisan and international precedent to protect corporate polluters. On instructions from President Biden, Interior is delaying and reviewing the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the MBTA to ensure further progress toward common sense standards to protect wildlife and their habitats. ”
Trump’s changes to the MBTA first came in December 2017. They removed penalties for corporate activities such as oil spills, electrocution of birds on uninsulated power lines, development and other activities that kill millions of birds each year.
Conservation groups and several states sued, and in August 2020 a federal court overturned Trump’s exemption from the MBTA. “It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime,” wrote Judge Valerie Caproni. “That was the letter of the law for the past century. But if the Ministry of Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems across the country are being killed with no legal consequence. “
Conservationists welcomed the ruling, but in early January, when there were only two weeks in office, the administration defied the court order in the final repeal of the law.
With today’s move, the Biden government has signaled that it will not turn its back on American birds.
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