The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), signed into law in 1918, is among the oldest wildlife protection laws on the books. Its creation was one of the National Audubon Society’s first major victories, and in the years since its enactment, the MBTA has saved millions, if not billions, of birds.
Today, enforcement of key provisions of the MBTA is under threat. Current regulations protect birds from “incidental take,” i.e. the supposedly unintended bird mortality caused by various commercial, industrial, mining, and other activities. These include the operations of wind farms, oil waste pits, discharges of pollutants, and many others. The current regulations provide for protective measures by exposing violators to potential penalties.
But there are proposed regulatory changes which would water down or eliminate most of the circumstances under which penalties can be assessed. Audubon Societies and many other wildlife-oriented groups are opposing the regulatory changes. Fortunately, there is a bill, the Migratory Bird Protection Act (H. R. 5552) now making its way through the House of Representatives. This bill, if passed by Congress, would nullify such changes and establish “incidental take” protections as a matter of law, not mere regulation.
HR5552 is only a start, as legislation has to bounce around the halls of Congress, with the resulting law very much a compromise between many competing interests. But we feel it is a good start. We urge you to contact your congressional representative and senators to voice your support for preserving the MBTA’s originally-intended protections.
You may read, if you follow this issue, that the Audubon Society has recently prevailed in court against the U.S. Department of the Interior. A judge has ruled that the regulatory rollbacks are “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA.” Thus, the regulations regarding the incidental killing of birds will remain in place. For now. We still need to apply pressure to Congress so they’ll pass the regulations into law, making them harder if not impossible to undermine in future.