Unprecedented withdrawal of bird protection in the last days of administration

Unprecedented withdrawal of bird protection in the last days of administration

“The Trump administration starts the new year and the remaining weeks with the completion of its illegal bird killing policy,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president of conservation policy at the National Audubon Society. “This brazen effort will certainly be in vain, as the government has already found out in court that it cannot unilaterally exempt the Law on the Treaty on Migratory Birds and its obligations to protect and preserve birds.

Today, as a final step, the Home Office released its Decision Record (ROD) to repeal critical safeguards in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The effort met with broad and bipartisan opposition, including from members of Congress, more than 25 states, numerous tribal governments, academics, athletes, bird watchers, and 250,000 people who submitted comments against the proposed rule change. In August, a federal court invalidated the policy, which serves as the legal basis for the regulatory efforts the administration is appealing.

“Through the courts, Congress and administrative action, it is important that we do everything we can to not only restore full protection to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but also to protect it from similar attacks in the future,” said Greenberger.

Great Egret, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

The Biden-Harris administration should initiate a process to reintroduce MBTA protection and add an approach for appropriate approval under the law. For its part, the new Congress should pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act to clarify this longstanding protection and approve this sound approach. The bill was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee at the 116th Congress and had a non-partisan group of over 90 co-sponsors.

“As the Trump administration tries to simplify the killing of birds, tens of thousands of bird lovers in the western hemisphere complete the 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count, an annual bird census,” Greenberger said. “We just learned that despite the record turnout in 2019, six million fewer birds were registered. While we don’t yet know exactly what caused this decline, it is due to new scientific evidence showing alarming trends in bird decline, such as the loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970. “

The final rule change removes decades of bipartisan precedents, so the MBTA’s protection only applies to activities that deliberately kill birds and exempt all industrial hazards from enforcement. Any “accidental” death – no matter how inevitable, avoidable, or devastating to birds – becomes immune to legal enforcement.

For example, if the government’s interpretation of the law went into effect in 2010, BP would have had no repercussions under the MBTA for the more than one million birds killed in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP eventually paid $ 100 million in fines, largely thanks to protection in the MBTA that was removed by the Trump administration.

A coalition that included the National Audubon Society won a lawsuit invalidating the administration’s legal opinion used to create this new rule. This contributed to the reasons that this new rule should become invalid if challenged in court. Audubon and other groups will use the coming days to review their legal options