WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 8, 2019) – In an effort to strengthen the 100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, today a bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), introduced H.R. 5552, the Migratory Bird Protection Act (MBPA). The new bill would buttress existing protections in the face of Trump administration attempts to weaken them.  

In December 2017, the Trump administration issued guidance that the MBTA’s protections apply only to activities that purposefully kill birds. Any “incidental” take—no matter how inevitable, avoidable or devastating the impact on birds—becomes immune from enforcement under the law. This bill will once again, in plain language, require industry to take proactive measures to avoid incidental bird deaths.

“It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of bird emergency,” said Sarah Rose, executive director of Audubon California. “Audubon science shows that two out of three North American bird species could face extinction due to climate change, including the California Quail, the Yellow-billed Magpie and other iconic birds that Californians cherish. We thank Rep. Lowenthal for his leadership and call on other members of Congress to follow California’s lead in protecting the birds we love.”

California officials have taken several steps to block the impact of the Trump Administration reversal. In May 2018, California joined seven other states in a lawsuit challenging the DOI memorandum, followed that November by guidance from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, stating that incidental take remained illegal in California regardless of federal policy.   Last September, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 454, by San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) to further strengthen California protections.

For decades, industry has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to take common sense precautions like covering oil waste pits so birds don’t mistake them for safe ponds; insulating small sections of power lines so raptors don’t get electrocuted; siting wind farms away from bird migration routes and habitats. The law has also provided accountability and recovery after oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon.

If passed, the MBPA would establish a new fee paid by industry that will increase funding for the conservation of birds impacted by these industrial hazards and an additional fund to establish a new federal research program to study the effects of industry on birds. The new legislation also directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a permitting process for “incidental take” through which businesses would implement best management practices, driving development of technology to further prevent bird deaths.

“Congress has the opportunity next week to spread its wings and protect America’s birds,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “More than half of our birds make heroic migrations, traveling thousands of miles from the tropics to Ohio or Maine, but they can’t tell an oil waste pit from a lake full of food. For more than a century, low-cost laws protected these birds. And an overwhelming majority of Americans — including 500 conservation organizations from every state — say it’s time to reinstate those protections.”

Audubon is one of more than 500 conservation groups and other organizations from all 50 states that have joined to urge Congress to defend the MBTA, our country's most important bird conservation law in the United States.

Facts and figures on industrial causes of bird mortality in the United States:


Media contact: Jason Howe, jason.howe@audubon.org, 415.595.9245  

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

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