By Katie Umekubo, Natural Resources Defense Council
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose a rule embracing Trump administration rollbacks of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act’s essential protections for birds.
The Trump administration is hard at work digging its heels in on the Department of the Interior’s ill-conceived reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement today signals that undermining one of our nation’s first and most important laws for birds is a priority for this administration, despite a myriad of recent warnings of devastating bird loss and a global biodiversity crisis.
As highlighted previously, Interior’s reinterpretation is illegal and we are challenging it in court. The Service is now proposing a rule to codify Interior’s reinterpretation, which exempts incidental or non-purposeful harm to birds and effectively allows any industrial activity that kills or injures birds under the Act.
This is not a science-based decision, and it is not in the interest of wildlife. Notably, the proposed rule is currently devoid of any environmental review or analysis demonstrating how birds will benefit from its issuance. And disturbingly, this is coming from our nation’s top wildlife conservation agency.
Equally concerning, we expect the agency to fast-track the rulemaking and continue to turn a blind eye towards the concerns of Members of Congress, former wildlife officials, researchers and the public. Instead continuing to bow to the oil and gas industry’s desire to not be held accountable for millions of preventable bird deaths.
For over four decades, the Service addressed modern-day challenges under the MBTA by judiciously prosecuting incidental takes and creating partnerships that incentivized common-sense measures to limit the harm caused to birds by industrial activities. The agency also provided much-needed guidance and resources to state agencies and stakeholders surrounding actions that might harm birds. Without the threat of enforcement, these efforts are now fading.
Rather than call out Interior’s failure to prioritize bird conservation and abide by our international treaty commitments, the agency is simply ignoring mounting impacts from previously prohibited activities—such as tree clearing during nesting seasons. As the Service stands idly by, we are also losing critical information on where bird deaths are occurring or what species are most likely to be impacted from oil and gas and other types of industrial activity.
If finalized, this rule will further tie the agency’s hands and greenlight massive industrial bird slaughters.
Join us in calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do the right thing for birds and to reverse Interior’s drastic slashing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.