Migratory birds had a victory on Tuesday when a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s latest anti-bird move. By rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MTBA), Trump wanted to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions.
The MTBA was first enacted in 1916 and codified into federal law in 1918 to protect birds that were going extinct. Originally, it covered certain species of birds in Canada, which was then part of Great Britain, and the U.S. Later, the act broadened to include more species and more countries, including Mexico, Russia and Japan. The MTBA is one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the U.S. and was one of the National Audubon Society’s first big victories.
Since 2017, Daniel Jorjani, solicitor for the Department of the Interior, has pushed to change the rule. Jorjani’s proposed update would punish construction companies, utilities and other industries, whose work sometimes kills birds, only if they intentionally harmed avian populations. This contradicts the spirit of the act, which urges companies to consider migratory patterns of birds in a project’s development phase.
Fortunately for migratory birds, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni upheld the act. “That has been the letter of the law for the past century,” Caproni said. “But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”
Environmentalists and bird advocacy groups celebrated the victory. “We’re elated to see this terrible opinion overturned at a time when scientists are warning that we’ve lost as many as 3 billion birds [in North America] in the last 50 years,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To relax rules, to have the unhampered killing or birds didn’t make any sense [and] was terrible and cruel really.”
Image via Wolfgang Vogt