Cheers to the Biden Administration for undoing the damage the Trump Administration did to birds in its final days when it weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
Companies that kill migratory birds, incidentally or on purpose, will once again face the threat of punishment from the federal government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the final rule today, formally overturning Trump’s policy that said the MBTA only applied when companies or individuals killed birds on purpose.
“It is well established that avian species are declining at an alarming rate,” said Jennifer Best, assistant legal director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “The previous policy paved the way for the thoughtless destruction of even more birds. I am happy to see the MBTA being restored. It is a critical step to recognizing the value of these species, how our actions are impacting them and working towards recovery.”
Over the last 50 years, the population of North American birds has declined by an estimated 3 billion birds, according to FWS. Many of the 1,093 species of birds protected under the MBTA are experiencing population decreases due to increased threats across the continent. Just recently, the FWS released the Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 report with 269 bird species considered to be in greatest need of conservation attention.
“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of our first environmental laws, represents more than 100 years of America’s commitment to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The impacts of climate change coupled with loss and degradation of habitat are pushing more and more wildlife species to the brink. Today we are announcing critical steps to ensure that the Act can help conserve birds today and in the future.”
FWS will begin developing regulations through the MBTA to shield companies from prosecution if they adopt measures proven to prevent the unintentional but avoidable avian deaths known as incidental take. The agency said it will open a public-comment period to shape “a common-sense approach to regulating the incidental take of migratory birds that works to both conserve birds and provide regulatory certainty to industry and stakeholders.”