US’s Primary Bird Protection Law Under Attack. Comments Due This Thursday 3/19

First, we hope you’re staying well during these challenging times. We know there are many things on your mind right now, and we appreciate your ongoing commitment to protecting our wildlife and wild places. 

Today we ask you to speak up for our country’s premier bird protection law, now threatened as the Trump Administration works to dismantle it, leaving millions of birds at risk.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the United States oldest environmental laws and provides protection for more than 1,000 species of North American birds.  The Trump Administration has worked with industries that pose some of the greatest threats to wild birds to severely weaken the MBTA, allowing industries that kill huge numbers of wild birds to no longer be held accountable. 

Bald Eagle, photo by Mick Thompson

Please submit comments to both of these portals by 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 19.

Speak up today to protect the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by submitting comments to both portals. Use sample text below, or feel free to modify.

The Trump Administration has proposed new regulations which would eliminate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) ability to protect wild birds from incidental take. For more than a century, the USFWS has had the ability to prosecute industries which harm wild birds through their activities. It is this ability that has allowed the USFWS to force utilities to retrofit power lines to prevent the electrocution of eagles and other raptors, to address toxic chemicals that poison birds, and to go after oil companies for oil spills that kill wild birds.Under the new rule, these companies could kill wild birds with indifference and impunity. Decades of effort to reduce industrial threats to birds would be reversed and emerging threats would not be addressed.

This change represents a fundamental threat to our wild birds, who are already under tremendous pressure. Allowing irresponsible industrial interests to kill birds without concern or accountability is simply a disgrace that reverses a century of protection and eliminates the ability to address new emerging industrial threats. Under these changes, Industrial interests will be allowed to develop, poison, pollute and create other threats with complete disregard to wild bird populations.

You can use or modify the following language or write your own comments.


Sample Letter

Dear US Fish and Wildlife Service,

I am writing in strong opposition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to eliminate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act’s prohibition on incidental take. I recommend abandoning this proposed rule and instead adopt the “no action” alternative in the associated EIS scoping process.

Since 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been the United States’ primary bird protection law. Today, the law protects more than 1,000 species of birds in the United States. The strength of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act lies in its provisions which prohibit both direct and incidental take of the protected species. The direct take prohibition has allowed the federal government to prosecute intentional acts such as the shooting of birds of prey, while the incidental take prohibition has allowed the government to go after industries that kill large numbers of birds through their activities. It is the incidental take provision that has allowed the federal government for example, to force power companies to retrofit power lines that electrocute birds of prey, close down open oil pits that attract birds, force wind companies to site their wind farms outside of high use bird areas, prosecute irresponsible use of poisons and hold companies like BP accountable after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill killed more than a million birds.

The proposed rule would allow industry to kill birds with impunity. It would remove critically important protections for birds that have been in place for more than a century. It comes at a time when wild birds need protection more than ever. A recent report from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Decline of North American Avifauna, indicates that bird populations across the United States, including both common and rare species have declined by more than 3 billion birds over the last 50 years. An additional report from the National Bird Alliance of Oregon Society, Survival by Degrees places as many as a two-thirds of North American bird species at risk of extinction over the next century if temperatures increase by 3 degrees Celsius. This is a time when we need to be doing everything possible to protect our wild birds. The proposed rule takes us in exactly the wrong direction.

Wild birds have incredible intrinsic value. They play a critical role in supporting natural and agricultural systems through pollination, seed dispersal and pest control. Bird watching is a major economic driver supporting local and national economies. Birds are an integral part of the web of life.  The proposed rule to eliminate the prohibition on incidental take would significantly increase threats to wild birds and allow industrial interests to act with indifference and impunity when it comes to the welfare of wild birds. The proposed rule is contrary to the international treaties that underpin the MBTA, the intent of the MBTA, 100 years of precedent, and the basic mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It will mean that more bird species will move toward extinction.  I am deeply troubled by this proposed rule and the fact that it appears in the announcement that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hand in hand with some of the industries that represent the greatest threat to wild birds to weaken the MBTA.

I strongly urge you to reject the proposed rule and to select the “no action” alternative in the associated EIS.