Critical Protections Removed Protecting Migratory Birds

Dec 6, 2020

Sandhill Crane Migration in Jasper - Pulaski Wildlife Reserve.
Credit Serge Melki / Flickr

The Department of Interior recently removed critical protections from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was signed into law over a 100 years ago. The act bans killing, capturing, selling and trading migratory bird species without authorization from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Alison Holloran is the executive director of Audubon Rockies and Vice President of the National Audubon Society. During an interview with KPCW last week, she said the act protects many upland game birds and waterfowl species.

"So it was really set up to protect our migratory birds outside of those birds that we typically hunt," Holloran said. "This act was set up to protect those birds that migrate north, south, east, west...thousands of species of birds. And it was actually, it came about in the early 19th century, when birds were being hunted for their plumage for women's fashion."

Holloran sid as it stands large companies are responsible for incidental takes, but under the new rollbacks on the act they wouldn’t be held accountable for accidentally killing migratory birds.

"I will give you the example of the deep horizon spill on the golf," she said. "If the Act was in a place where it is now when it happened, BP would have not been held responsible for the thousands of birds that have died, that died for the economy that was basically devastated by the oil spill, or any of the cleanup that is incidental take, they did not mean to have the oil spill, they did not want that oil to you know, in infect the golf, but it did. And so because of that they were held responsible to help clean up that spill. If this act dies, then incidental incidents like that would just go on without any accountability."

The administration, she said, removed protections because mitigation for incidental takes is costly.

With the changes, Holloran said birds won’t be the only ones affected.

"I don't think there is one person on this planet that wants dirty water, dirty air, seeing our birds, who are indicators of all of this, of the health of our environment take a huge loss," she said. "If the birds are losing, so are we."

A U.S. House Natural Resource Committee voted to advance a Migratory Bird Protection Act that would divert the rollbacks, forcing businesses to implement best practices. The act has bipartisan support, and Holloran says she’s hopeful it will pass in Congress.

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