SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With the Trump Administration moving to gut key provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, new legislation introduced today would give California officials the authority to maintain vital protections for the state’s incredible diversity of birds. Assembly Bill 2627, sponsored by Audubon California, will allow the state’s Fish and Game Commission to protect birds from oil pits and spills, power lines, communications towers, and other threats even as the federal government refuses to do so.
“This measure will ensure that California can maintain its tradition of safeguarding our birds and protecting our treasured ecosystem for future generations,” said the legislation’s author, Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “It is important for us to send a message that California will continue its legacy of conservation, especially as the federal administration weakens environmental protections.”
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 amend California law to clarify that the state may issue orders, rules, or regulations that are more protective of migratory birds than the rules or policies set forth by the Department of the Interior. In so doing, the State of California is clearly stating that it will not be forced to adopt the federal government’s weak approach to protecting migratory birds.
“As the federal government continues to roll back key environmental protections like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act, California is stepping up to protect its people and natural resources,” said Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California. “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. 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.