Migratory Bird Treaty Act is Back (WFO support)


The Western Field Ornithologists published their response today in their WFO-March_2021_Newsletter.pdf:
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is Back By Kristie Nelson

Americans either cheered or sulked on President Biden’s inauguration day depending on their political leanings. But for migratory birds it was clearly a celebratory day. On his first day in office, Joe Biden halted the dramatic weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) that the Trump administration had initiated. Had the Trump administration version been implemented, many industrial practices that save tens of millions of birds every year would have been eliminated. Adopted in 1918, the MBTA makes it illegal for anyone to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell” migratory birds without a permit, a provision of this act that has provided a bedrock foundation for the protection of migratory birds ever since. In its early days, the MBTA slowed the decline of many wild bird populations that were commercially hunted for their feathers for use in ladies’ hats. Great Egrets, Wood Ducks, and other species benefited greatly. Today, hat fashion is of little threat to North American birds but the MBTA continues to provide many critical measures, some of which may not be fully appreciated. The Trump administration changes to the act would have stripped the MBTA of much of its relevancy. It declared that “incidental take” (i.e. unintentional killing) would no longer be prohibited – a clear nod to industry protectionism. Until this proposed redefinition of incidental take, the liability involved in the incidental killing of birds has led to a wide variety of successful practices that protect bird populations. Many of these measures are relatively simple, have a high degree of public support, and are effective at reducing bird mortality. Specific ways in which the incidental take regulation has protected birds are provided in the following examples: • Oil spill prevention and response. The threat of financial accountability for oil spill-related bird deaths encourages measures that prevent spills in the first place. In cases where a company is found responsible for an oil spill that harms birds, monetary fines and damages resulting from violating the MBTA help to fund clean-up and restoration efforts. Without the incidental take component of the MBTA, we’d expect more oil spills and fewer funds for restoration and rehabilitation. Without the full protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, seabirds like this Common Murre would likely suffer greater mortality from oil pollution. Photo by Alan Vernon. 21 • The MBTA requires that electric utilities install powerlines that are widely spaced so that large raptors are not electrocuted. • Oil field waste pits are another leading cause of preventable bird deaths that the MBTA helps to curtail. Birds can mistake these pits for water. When they land or stop for a drink, they become mired in oil waste and die. These pits kill a surprising number of birds, and not only waterbirds. One study revealed the remains of 172 species from 44 families recovered from waste oil pits – the majority were passerines. Covering pits with netting or barriers prevents or reduces bird mortality. • Blinking lights added to tall communication towers significantly reduce migratory bird strike mortality. • Weights attached to fishery long-lines keep baited hooks deep and out of reach of albatrosses, petrels, and other seabirds that are inadvertently hooked and drowned, thus reducing mortality of these long-lived and vulnerable species. There are many other examples of the importance of maintaining incidental take regulation in the MBTA. Losing these protections for migratory birds would have been a national tragedy. WFO supports the Biden administration in reinstating the full intent of the MBTA and we encourage our members to be watchful for any future attempts to deregulate these important policies. 

Copied from Migratory Bird Treaty Act is Back
and Submitted to slocobirding by San Luis Obispo, CA group member, Kathanne Lynch phone 303.968.4750