The Migratory Bird Act (MBTA) of 1918 turns 100 years old this year.
But instead of celebrating its success as one of one of the oldest and most important conservation laws in the world that have saved billions of birds, those of us into birds have grave concerns that recent decisions by the current administration and potential action in Congress can undermine the MBTA.
And I stand in agreement with David Yarnold, CEO and President of Audubon, when he says, “For the sake of all North American birds, that can’t happen.”
I’ll repeat it: we can’t let this happen.
MBTA Protects Migratory Birds
The MBTA was first enacted in 1916 for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain.
Its passage was one of Audubon’s first major conservation victories and paved the way for many of our most iconic birds to rally from near-extinction.
This landmark is being celebrated as Year of the Bird by many important conservation-minded organizations including Audubon, National Geographic, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and BirdLife International, and more than 50 partnering organizations.
The purpose of the century-old MBTA was to keep birds as safe as possible. This environmental law creates an incentive for people to protect birds when humans industrialize a landscape.
Don’t Let the Birds Lose
And currently the answer to solving many of our country’s problems is to look to industrialization, and that means the birds lose.
Humanity has created many of the problems that birds face today: noise pollution, oil pollution, light pollution, water pollution, air pollution, structural collisions, long-line fishing bycatch, pesticide use, power lines, climate change, and the list goes on.
Each hazard created by humanity and most are invisible to birds until it’s too late.
These kinds of deaths are called “incidental takes,” or deaths that occur due to activities that are otherwise lawful.
To limit incidental take, many companies, including in the oil and electric utility sectors, working together with conservation groups and wildlife agencies, have developed and implemented best practices to protect birds, much of which are simple and cheap.
Humanity is Accountable, Not the Birds
Solutions can be as simple covering tar pits with nets, marking power lines to make them more visible, and changing communications tower lights from steady red to flashing.
Or as technical as wind-energy leaders that use detection technology to shut down wind turbines if birds fly too close.
When companies fail to adopt common sense practices and their activities have led to bird deaths, the MBTA provides a critical tool for accountability through enforcement of the law by issuing penalties in egregious cases, as well as a key incentive to implement these practices in the first place.
There are many solutions in place, and that’s why those of us who love nature and wildlife were shocked when the Department of the Interior announced just two days before Christmas that it would no longer hold industry responsible for bird deaths.
A proposed bill H.R. 4239 would gut the MBTA and allow companies like those responsible for the one million birds that died in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon spill not be held accountable for their actions.
Support the Bird Protection Act
If you care about birds and nature, then you need to join the more than 500 organizations representing every state and millions of Americans who have signed a letter asking Congress to honor the MBTA by celebrating its anniversary, not by harming this key law and the birds it protects.
The MBTA has saved the Snowy Egret, the Sandhill Crane, the Trumpeter Swan, and the Bald Eagle from extinction.
Join those of us that care about the MBTA to let this administration and your local representatives know just how much you value the most important law to protect birds.
Don’t let our bird protection act come under attack!
Tell Congress, the Department of the Interior and your representatives to uphold the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Sign the Audubon’s Fast Action form and get your voice heard.
Protect the birds and protect the earth!