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Biden Administration Pauses Rollback of Migratory Bird Treaty Act Rule

Migratory Bird Treaty ActPhoto credit: Jo Crebbin
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The Biden administration delays the removal of migratory bird protections for corporate entities by a month for public comment.

In a move celebrated by waterfowlers and birders together, the Biden administration is taking more time to look at a Trump-era rollback. The rule would have prevented corporate entities from having to pay fines when accidentally or incidentally killing protected migratory birds. It was set to go into play on Feb. 8 of this year.

The Trump administration saw the removal of the rule as an issue of fairness.  Former Deputy Solicitor Daniel Jorjani said that the rule “hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions.”

However, the administration also acknowledged that the rule would likely result in fewer corporate actions to protect species under the umbrella of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

The Cost of Industry on Migratory Birds

MBTA, oil spill
Bird affected by oil spill; photo credit: Mike Shooter

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, out of the approximately 7 billion birds in North America, industry kills 450 million to 1.1 billion per year.

The Deepwater Oil Spill in 2010 dumped a record 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Audubon Society, more than 1 million birds died as a result of the spill.

Because BP violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the company agreed to pay $100 million to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund for wetlands conservation and restoration in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Organizations that applied for grants through the fund needed to show that their projects were benefitting birds and wetlands affected by the spill.

Public Commentary Period to Last 20 Days

In a statement on behalf of the Department of the Interior, spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said that the Trump administration “sought to overturn decades of bipartisan and international precedent to protect corporate polluters” by rolling back protections.

The Biden administration’s freeze on the rule simply allows for a projected period of time in which the rule can be better researched and bring in a substantial period for public commentary.

“At President Biden’s direction, Interior is delaying and reviewing the Trump administration’s rollback of the MBTA to ensure continued progress toward common-sense standards that protect wildlife and their habitats,” Schwartz continued in her statement.

Many Applaud Pause, Look to Biden Administration to Protect Migratory Birds

Environmentalists, conservationists, and birders are applauding the move that will likely negate a rule that looked to do more harm than good.

“Migratory birds capture our imagination, enrich our lives, and provide food for our families. Beginning in the early 1900s and going through the 1970s, our country placed a high value on the conservation of these species,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO of the conservation-focused group Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“We thank the Biden administration for restoring protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that, until the last administration, enjoyed decades of bipartisan support. The cedar waxwings I saw on my morning walk seemed a bit livelier today.”

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