Audubon Advisory

Department of the Interior Guts Enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

In December, the Department of the Interior released an interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that eliminates its ability to hold industries accountable for bird deaths. Reversing decades of practice by administrations under both political parties, this legal opinion drastically limits the law and puts hundreds of species of birds at greater risk.

This attack on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act comes at a time when we are celebrating the Year of the Bird, honoring the one-hundredth anniversary of this visionary law. Passed in 1918 with leadership from Audubon and chapters across the nation, the MBTA protects nearly all of our country’s native birds from being killed without a permit.

For decades, the law has been applied to protect birds from industrial impacts as well. Millions of birds die from preventable causes such as oil waste pits, oil spills, electric transmission lines, and more. The MBTA provides a critical incentive for industries to implement common sense practices that save birds’ lives. It also ensures that responsible parties are held accountable for events that kill significant numbers of birds. For instance, if this interpretation had been in place after the Gulf oil spill, BP would have been off the hook for killing one million birds and would not have been required to pay a $100 million fine that is helping restore bird habitat.

The opinion has been strongly criticized in a new letter from former high-ranking officials in the Department of the Interior under Democratic and Republican administrations. This move, along with Congressional threats, will put more than 1,000 species of birds at risk, and Audubon will fight tooth and nail to uphold these vital protections. You can take action by writing to the Department of the Interior and Congress at our Action Center.

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