WASHINGTON — Conservation groups today submitted more than 180,000 public comments opposing the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Act was one of our nation’s first conservation laws, enacted to implement our international treaty commitments to protect populations of migratory birds. For decades the law has incentivized industries to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize migratory bird deaths.
However, on Jan. 30, the Trump administration proposed formal regulations to cement into law a hotly disputed legal opinion declaring the Act does not protect birds from harms caused by industrial activities, dramatically undercutting the law’s ability to conserve birds.
Earlier this year Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and a group of 18 bipartisan original co-sponsors introduced the Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 5552) to reverse the administration’s reinterpretation of the law and reaffirm its intent to protect migratory birds from industrial activities.
“Despite the unwavering support from Americans and a century of conservation success, the administration is stripping away protections for migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Weakening this law leaves our nation’s birds unprotected against careless corporate conduct at a time when we have already lost more than 3 billion to a myriad of unchecked threats.”
“The Trump administration’s weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a disaster for America’s birds,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s heartless to give the oil and gas industry, utilities and big agriculture a get-out-of-jail-free card for killing birds. This 100-year-old law required industries to take reasonable steps to minimize bird deaths, and there’s no reason to change that beyond greed and corruption.”
“In addition to bringing joy to the lives of millions of Americans, birds also generate big business,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy at American Bird Conservancy. “Consider the Biggest Week in American Birding in Northwest Ohio. This annual event attracts tens of thousands of birders from all over the county, and injects an estimated $40 million into the local economy. This short-sighted action by the Administration is bad for birds as well as people.”
“As we face this global health crisis, now is when we most need the joy of birds and the comfort of the outdoors, but the bird-killer department at Interior is busy gutting the law that protects birds,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “America is being robbed of birds and wildlife while we’re focused on caregiving and the urgent needs of our families and friends.”
“Instead of rubber-stamping Interior’s illegal slashing of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act at the behest of the oil and gas industry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should head back to the drawing board and propose a rule that actually benefits birds,” said Katie Umekubo, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Thousands of Americans who care deeply about avian conservation are telling you to keep protections strong and they deserve an agency that will do the right thing.”