SACRAMENTO, Calif. – An important bill seeking to continue protections for California’s migratory birds in the face of federal rollbacks today passed a critical vote in the State Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Water. Assembly Bill 2627, authored by Assembly Member Ash Kalra and sponsored by Audubon California, would continue key protections for birds while providing affected industries with a clearer pathway to compliance.
The bill now moves on to the State Senate Appropriations Committee.
“AB 2627 ensures that migratory birds will continue to be protected in California even as the federal government undermines the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA),” said Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California. “Migratory bird populations in California continue to decline due to habitat loss and other human activities. This bill strikes a balance by incentivizing bird conservation while supporting a vibrant California economy.”
The MBTA is one of the nation’s oldest environmental laws, and has been the foundation of protections for migratory birds in North America for more than a century. In December of last year, the Trump Administration broke with tradition and issued a legal opinion stating that the Act would not be enforced for the killing of birds that occurred during otherwise lawful activities (such as oil drilling). It has been called a blank check to kill birds.
While the Act has sometimes been used to enforce for violations in egregious cases of bird killings, such as oil spills, its real value comes in compelling industries to proactively take steps to minimize harm to birds from their operations. The Administration’s new legal interpretation opens the door for industries like mining and oil drilling to kill migratory birds without attempting to avoid or mitigate such impacts.
Assembly Bill 2627 would allow industries with activities that can harm significant numbers of birds to adopt best management practices to avoid that harm and thereby provide clear direction to support compliance with the existing law.
“So many of the birds that we love here in California continue to survive today in part thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” added Rose. “This includes the Red-tailed Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Common Loon and Burrowing Owl. AB 2627 provides a way to ensure those species, and many others, can thrive for generations to come.”
The Administration’s legal interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was roundly criticized by conservationists and dozens of former Department of Interior officials from both political parties. For example, representatives from more than 500 conservation groups and other organizations from all 50 states recently signed a letter urging Congress to defend the Act.
The Trump Administration’s legal opinion is not the only attack on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act coming out of Washington, D.C. In November, an amendment that would exempt oil and gas companies from its provisions was introduced as part of a larger energy bill.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 350,000 members and supporters in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society. More information is available at ca.audubon.org.