Audubon Testifies at U.S. House Hearing on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Congress Takes First Step Toward Restoring Bird Protections Eliminated by Trump

The House Natural Resources Committee held a historic hearing on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and considered draft legislation that would reaffirm longstanding protections for birds. Audubon’s Vice President for Bird Conservation, Stan Senner, testified in front its wildlife subcommittee in support of a Congressional proposal to reaffirm bird protections under the law.

“At a time when there is urgent need to advance and strengthen bird conservation tools, the current administration has taken unprecedented steps to weaken or eliminate them,” says Stanley Senner, National Audubon Society’s Vice President for Bird Conservation, in testimony delivered to the subcommittee. “This policy change affects every state, district, and person who cares about birds, and apparently was decided without any analysis of the impacts to bird populations and without public input.” 

The Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife oversaw the hearing, which invited Stan Senner, along with Paul Schmidt, former Assistant Director for Migratory Birds with the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (2003-2011), and Amanda Rodewald, Senior Director of Conservation Science for Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to testify on this issue.

Senner and the other witnesses provided statements on the importance of birds, the value of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the unprecedented roll back of protections by the Trump administration’s legal opinion on the MBTA, and provided views in favor of draft legislation by Congressman Alan Lowenthal that reaffirms protections for birds from industrial hazards – also known as “incidental take”.

Chairman Jared Huffman of the subcommittee, and other Members of Congress, raised serious concerns over the administration’s reinterpretation of the law from December 2017, which overturns decades of policy by administrations under both parties that protected birds from these hazards. The legal opinion has removed a key incentive for industries to implement basic practices that save birds, and the ability to recover fines for bird deaths from disasters such as oil spills.

The draft legislation would reaffirm the policy and practice of at least fifty years that birds are protected from industrial hazards. Additionally, it would direct a permitting framework that would require the adoption of best management practices and other conditions in order to allow these industries to comply with the law.

In his testimony, Senner noted that the administration’s policy change has “put at risk the significant progress that stakeholders have made in advancing bird conservation”, and that it impacts “every state, district, and person who cares about birds”, while calling on Congress to “find common ground on this vital law and help protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow”.

You can find Audubon's press release regarding the MBTA here.

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