Our country’s most important bird-protection law—the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)—has been severely weakened. A rollback was scheduled to take effect on February 8 but it is being fully reassessed by the U.S. Department of the Interior and a public comment period is now open until March 1.
Congress passed this landmark law in 1918, which placed all migratory birds under federal protection. The MBTA safeguards birds by making it unlawful to kill, hunt, sell, or possess most native species of birds in the U.S., along with their nests, eggs, and feathers. Harmful proposals in Congress started in 2017 with new interpretations of the MBTA law that would reverse decades of policy that holds companies accountable for preventable bird deaths through incidental take.
Despite bipartisan opposition, the outgoing administration finalized a rule in early January to try to make this policy permanent giving industries a free pass to kill birds. Under this new interpretation of the MBTA law, if an oil spill were to hit the shoreline, those responsible would no longer pay a fine for any related bird deaths, limiting our ability to help birds recover from the spill.
Further undermining the MBTA clearly would be detrimental to birds and the habitats that we aim to protect. Now more than ever, we need to defend this important bird protection law.
Please send your comments now to ask the Fish and Wildlife Service to undo the rule and restore critical protections for birds. The deadline to comment is Monday, March 1.
Here is a sample comment message that you can personalize:
I greatly appreciate that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is reviewing and delaying implementing the rule that eliminates protections for birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). I urge FWS to take all available actions to undo this harmful and unlawful rule, restore protections for birds, and pursue a permitting approach for incidental take.
Birds are a fundamental part of our ecosystems and culture and provide significant value to my community, the nation, and the world. Yet, our bird populations face serious threats that have led to a decline of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970, while two-thirds of our bird species are at risk from climate change.
We need to be doing far more to protect and conserve birds, but the attack on the MBTA has only put birds at greater risk. The MBTA has provided longstanding and bipartisan protections for birds from avoidable hazards. The 2017 legal opinion and the rulemaking to codify it has undermined the ability to reduce preventable bird deaths and help birds recover from events such as oil spills.
I urge FWS to restore protections for birds under the MBTA and create a new pathway for permitting under the law to help conserve birds and encourage practices that protect birds from the variety of threats they face. Now is the time to act to save our nation’s birds, and I stand in strong support of the MBTA to help give them a fighting chance.
Comments can be submitted by using the link below.