Press Room

Audubon Chief Conservation Officer David O'Neill Meets with Secretary Zinke

Top conservation organizations share priorities at Department of the Interior roundtable meeting.

WASHINGTON — “Today was a great opportunity to join the conversation around conservation priorities. It’s important to think long-term because decisions we make today will be felt by communities and wildlife for decades and decades,” said David O’Neill, chief conservation officer of the National Audubon Society, after meeting with the Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. 

“Our number one goal is to protect the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The nation’s oldest and most effective law that protects birds has helped industry take the lives of birds into account for more than 100 years,” O’Neill said. “We continue to fundamentally disagree with the Department of the Interior’s interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and we believe there is a way to work together to find solutions where we all win.”

In addition, Audubon praised Secretary Zinke for Interior’s commitment to ensuring the lower Colorado River Basin has adequate water for people and wildlife.

Zinke addressed a group of a dozen conservation leaders about his proposed departmental reorganization. Audubon supports streamlining federal bureaucracies and using taxpayer dollars efficiently, but reserved judgment on the specifics of Zinke’s proposal.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act background:

Three days before last Christmas, the Office of the Solicitor within the Department of the Interior released an opinion saying it will no longer enforce the MBTA in cases of incidental bird deaths, effectively giving a blank check to industry to avoid gruesome and preventable bird deaths.

The MBTA is one of the National Audubon Society and the American conservation movement’s earliest victories, and has protected millions if not billions of birds in its century-long history. Congress passed the MBTA in 1918 in response to public outcry over the mass slaughter of birds, which threatened egrets and other species with extinction. The law prohibits killing or harming America’s birds except under certain conditions, including managed hunting seasons for game species.

Audubon is asking its 1.2 million members to contact their members of Congress to urge them to protect the integrity of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Audubon's efforts to protect birds and the places they need, please visit

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.  Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez,, 212-979-3068.


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