Legislation introduced to further protect state’s migratory birds

Assembly Bill 454 will eliminate a key loophole in state law that could imperil a wide variety of treasured bird species.

Sacramento, Calif. – Seeking to eliminate a key loophole in state law that could imperil California migratory birds, Assembly Member Ash Kalra recently introduced Assembly Bill 454. The bill will sever the linkage between state wildlife protection regulations and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which is being scaled back by the Trump Administration. Audubon California is sponsoring the bill.

“California has a tradition of safeguarding our birds and protecting our beautiful natural ecosystems for future generations, and we thank Assembly Member Kalra for capturing that sentiment in this important legislation,” said Mike Lynes. Audubon California’s director of public policy. “Assembly Bill 454 sends a clear message that California will continue to fight for these treasures, even as the federal administration weakens bedrock environmental laws.”

Assembly Bill 454 would change a key section of state law that protects birds. As written now, the second could be interpreted to defer protections for migratory birds to federal law, which the Trump Administration has weakened.

In late 2017, the Trump Administration issued a legal opinion that reversed decades of government policy and practice—by both Democratic and Republican administrations—on the implementation and enforcement of the MBTA. In particular, the federal government said that it would no longer prosecute so-called incidental take from industrial activities—meaning unintentional but predictable and avoidable killing. The Trump Administration interpretation would mean that there would be no liability for killing birds under the MBTA from massive ecological crises like the Exxon-Valdez or Deep Water Horizon oil spills. The administration has subsequently expressed its intention to change the regulations that implement the MBTA to make its interpretation permanent and binding.

“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,” said Lynes. “If the Trump Administration intends to roll back this bedrock law, there’s no reason that California’s wildlife protection laws should go with it.”

The State of California in September joined seven other states in a lawsuit challenging the Administration’s decision not to enforce key elements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In May of 2018, Audubon led a coalition of environmental groups to file a similar suit challenging the Administration’s move.

In November of last year, California legal and wildlife officials issued a legal advisory affirming the state’s ability and intent to protect migratory birds from commercial and industrial activity even as the federal government refuses to do so.

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

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