As MBTA Turns 100, Audubon Defends the Law in Court and in Congress

July 3rd marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. On that day in 1918, America’s most important bird protection law went into effect. Throughout 2018, we are celebrating this milestone as the Year of the Bird, yet at the same time, we are defending the law in the face of unprecedented attacks, including by recently filing a lawsuit against the administration. 

A few weeks ago, in conjunction with other conservation groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and others, Audubon filed litigation to challenge the administration’s interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that guts enforcement of the law. The policy reverses decades of precedent in the interpretation of the law by both Republican and Democratic administrations. The new interpretation allows all industrial activity to be exempted from the MBTA by only prohibiting deliberate acts, and letting off the hook bird deaths caused by hazards such as oil waste pits, oil spills, mining activity, power line electrocutions, and other threats. It drastically reduces the incentive for companies to adopt best practices that save birds from preventable harm, along with the ability to recover after events such as oil spills by applying fines under the law to habitat restoration.

Throughout the year, Audubon and our partners have worked to defend the law from Congressional attacks as well, such as HR 4239 and the Cheney “bird-killer amendment,” which would permanently change the law and its ability to address preventable industrial hazards. A recent Audubon article summarized some of the widespread support for upholding the law, including from Audubon members, Members of Congress, former administration officials, and more. If you haven’t yet contacted your Representatives or the administration and asked them to defend the law, please send them an email through our Action Center. We will continue to count on support from you and others across the country to ensure the MBTA remains a vital tool for conserving birds in its next century.