Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 12, 2023

Contact:

Tara Zuardo, (415) 419-4210, tzuardo@biologicaldiversity.org

Letter Urges Migratory Bird Protections After 1,000 Killed by Chicago Building

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after 1,000 migrating songbirds died after flying into McCormick Place in Chicago on the night of Oct. 4.

The Center also called on the agency to move forward with regulations it promised more than two years ago that could have potentially prevented this horrific event.

“This tragedy could have been prevented if the Fish and Wildlife Service had been doing its job to protect vulnerable birds,” said Tara Zuardo, a senior advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency should put out new regulations and take enforcement action against McCormick Place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Under the Trump administration, the Service finalized a rule that upended decades of enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This radical and unlawful reinterpretation concluded the law did not prohibit the unintentional killing of migratory birds.

In response to successful litigation by the Center and allies, the Biden administration revoked this rule in 2021. The agency also promised to issue regulations to address situations like McCormick Place, where infrastructure is known to cause bird deaths. However, after two years it has yet to pass issue these regulations, and this failure has hamstrung enforcement of the law.

Located right on Lake Michigan, McCormick Place has caused bird deaths in the past, but not to this extent. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns McCormick Place, had a voluntary lights-out policy during migration. However, because there was an event occurring on the night the mortality occurred, the lights were on, highlighting the importance of regulations and the Service’s involvement.

Despite the lack of regulations, the Service still has the power to levy fines against the authority, with the money going to bird conservation.

“I hope the Fish and Wildlife Service fines the authority, uses the money to mitigate these tragic deaths, and requires a strict lights-out policy during migration season,” said Zuardo. “When saving the lives of 1,000 birds is as simple as flipping off a light switch, it’s unconscionable to require anything less.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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