California and other states file lawsuit to protect migratory birds

Lawsuit is a response to Trump Administration's announcement that it will not enforce key elements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

San Francisco, Calif. -- Following the announcement today that California and seven other states have filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York challenging the Administration’s decision not to enforce key elements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), Audubon California Executive Director Sarah Rose made the following statement:

“More than 500 California bird species rely on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for protection. These birds are an essential part of California’s legendary natural treasures, right up there alongside Yosemite National Park and our incredible coastlines. We’re thankful that California's leadership understands the importance of protecting these treasures.”


Audubon California this year sponsored legislation requiring the State of California to enforce the requirements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, now that the federal government has signaled its intention to ignore key elements of the Act. That legislation garnered widespread support from legislators, which has resulted in productive discussions with the California Administration about our shared desire to protect migratory birds.

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.

“To borrow a phrase, this is welcome wind beneath our wings in the fight to keep this vital bird protection law intact,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president of conservation policy for the National Audubon Society. “The MBTA sparked 100 years of conservation leadership in this country and it defies all facts for the Department of the Interior to now try to weaken it. As the eight cases filed today demonstrate, states in every region of this country continue to rely on this law to guide bird protections, just as they did when it passed in 1918.”

View the full release from the National Audubon Society here.

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