SACRAMENTO, Calif. – An important bill seeking to continue protections for California’s migratory birds in the face of federal rollbacks today passed a key committee hurdle in the California State Assembly. Assembly Bill 2627, authored by Assembly Member Ash Kalra and sponsored by Audubon California, would continue key protections while ensuring a pathway for affected industries to comply.
“As the federal government continues to roll back key environmental protections, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is important for California to step up and protect its natural resources,” said Michael Lynes, public policy director for Audubon California. “We’re confident that this bill will protect the birds that are so important to California’s natural legacy without impeding our 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 Act would not be enforced for the killing of birds that occurred during otherwise lawful activities (such as oil drilling).
This is particularly alarming because the Act has been used not only to enforce violations, but also to compel industries to proactively take steps to minimize the impacts of their operations. The Administration’s new legal interpretation opens the door for industries like mining and oil drilling to kill migratory birds without attempt to avoid or mitigate such impacts.
Assembly Bill 2627 will create a compliance infrastructure around current California laws that protect migratory birds, enabling state officials and industries to work together with the goal of reinstating protections that are being lost at the federal level.
“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been essential to protecting birds we love, such as the Red-tailed Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Common Loon and Burrowing Owl,” added Lynes. “This bill is vital if we want a future that we can be proud to leave to our children.”
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, 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.