Migratory Bird Treaty Act Under Attack in the U.S. House

Photograph of an American Kestrel landing on a branch.

Earlier this week, in a last-minute move with little debate, Representative Liz Cheney snuck an amendment into a larger energy bill that would gut the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This provision, added during a House committee vote, would turn back the clock decades in protecting birds and give industries a free pass to kill birds with impunity.

The Cheney amendment was added to HR 4239, the SECURE American Energy Act, during a House Natural Resources Committee mark-up of the bill. The provision would end any enforcement of “incidental take,” which means that oil companies and other industries would no longer be held responsible for bird deaths resulting from their activities. The bill also contains numerous other harmful provisions that threaten public lands, waters, and wildlife.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is our nation’s cornerstone bird conservation law. Passed in 1918, it is on the eve of its 100th anniversary, and has seen decades of success conserving birds and bringing numerous species back from the brink of extinction. The law makes it illegal to kill most native bird species without a valid permit. Early Audubon advocates were key to passing this law.

While some of the threats to birds have changed over the past 100 years, the law remains as important as ever. Birds now face 21st century threats, including industrial impacts from oil waste pits, transmission lines, gas flares, oil spills, and more. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act helps reduce those impacts and has led to common-sense practices that save birds’ lives.

Additionally, in a new report from the Department of the Interior, the administration indicated that it is reviewing possible far-reaching changes to its enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The report from DOI states, among broader attacks on environmental protections, that they will “re-evaluate whether the MBTA imposes incidental take liability” and consider new guidelines or regulations. "Incidental take" is unintended bird deaths that result from industrial activity.

Now, in light of an organized effort to upend our most important bird conservation law, it is critical to let your member of Congress know that this is unacceptable. You can call on your U.S. Representative to oppose this disastrous bill and the Cheney provision through our Action Center