When contributing editor Rene Ebersole first started poking around the black market for songbirds in South Florida, she knew she was onto something big. So did federal investigators. It took another two years for the undercover operation to unfold and for the first wave of smugglers to be prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The resulting cover story provides a rare glimpse into one way the nation’s most powerful avian-conservation law is being enforced—by a web of wildlife agents working covertly on behalf of birds.
Other bird champions in the Fall 2018 issue of Audubon are operating in the light (even as they push for Lights Out, to prevent migrating species from becoming confused at night). In Toronto and elsewhere, advocates, architects, and inventors are teaming up to ensure birds’ safe passage through North American cities, as Marguerite Holloway describes in her feature story. Twenty-five years after the bird-friendly-building movement began, it’s on the verge of becoming standard practice.
Enacting change on behalf of birds requires patience and vision. The benefits may take years, decades, or even generations to unfold. Golden Eagle Audubon Society in Boise knows that. Every year for the past five years it has led a camp that teaches kids who have immigrated to Idaho from all over the world about their new environment. Audubon’s video producer, Mike Fernandez, himself moved to Idaho from Peru as a child. Like Fernandez, there’s a good chance many of those kids—who learn about birds of prey and participate in hummingbird banding—will grow up to champion birds, too.
But as tangible and as hard-won as many successes are, some can be undone quickly. Our nation’s other bedrock wildlife-protection law, the Endangered Species Act, has become the target of dozens of attempts to roll it back. A recent Audubon investigation found that public-comment periods for proposed government actions, such as the revisions to the ESA, are shrinking. That comment period closes on September 24. To preserve the ESA’s protections, and many other conservation victories, we need to not only be farsighted—we need to act fast.
This story originally ran in the Fall 2018 issue as “The Long Game.” To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.