Victory: Critical Protections for Migratory Birds Reinstated!

Victory: Critical Protections for Migratory Birds Reinstated!

In March we published an action alert urging the Biden administration to reinstate critical protections for migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that had been weakened in the final days of the previous administration. Over 4,250 of you joined us in our call, and thanks to you the Biden administration has acted to restore bird protections.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), first enacted in 1918, exists precisely to protect migratory birds. It explicitly makes it illegal to kill birds, damage nests, or disturb eggs from listed species “by any means or in any manner.” 

100 years after its passing, birds are still very much in need of protection from harm and extinction of their species. For instance, North America has lost almost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years. In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared 23 species extinct, including 11 species of birds.

Even though the MBTA is one of the most important laws we have to protect birds, in January the Trump administration moved to gut it with a rule that got rid of penalties for incidental take, or accidental killing, of birds — regardless of how preventable they were, or what the impact on populations would be.

This change shielded oil, construction, and other industries from legal consequences if they unintentionally killed birds, a move that clearly goes against the spirit of the MBTA, and elicited a blistering ruling from a federal judge. 

This month, the Biden administration officially revoked that rule, returning a longstanding interpretation that the MBTA’s original language banning killing “by any means or in any manner” meant what it said. 

The reinstatement of the MBTA protections is inarguably a step in the right direction. But it is imperative that the government not give in to industry pressure again via the permitting process. 

Right now, the USFWS is considering a proposed rule that would streamline the incidental take permitting process for bald and golden eagles, who are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Please join us in our call urging the USFWS to instead increase regulations to ensure North American eagles stay safe and escape extinction. If you live in the United States, please also visit our alert here to urge y​​our U.S. representative to support The Migratory Bird Protection Act of 2021, which would further solidify the original intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

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