Expert Says Weakening Migratory Bird Treaty Act Makes it “Impotent”

Almost All of the Billion Birds Killed Annually by Industry Activities are Unintentional or ‘Incidental Take’

A Cornell Lab of Ornithology expert testified before a House of Representatives subcommittee speaking in opposition to a proposed reinterpretation of the key “incidental take” provision in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

This reinterpretation eliminates penalties for any “unintended” bird mortality.

MBTA Provides Important International Protections for Birds

The MBTA, signed into law in 1918, is one of the most critical international protections for birds that migrate throughout North America.

In the years since its enactment, the MBTA has saved millions, if not billions, of birds.

Here’s a full list of the species protected under the treaty.

The MBTA saved the majestic Bald Eagle from extinction
The MBTA saved the majestic Bald Eagle from extinction

MBTA’s Incidental Take Provision

The ‘incidental take’ provision of the Act provides protection from damages that do not purposefully, but perhaps through negligence, harm migratory birds such as the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

“Almost all estimates of avian mortality reflect unintentional or ‘incidental take,’ including the nearly billion birds killed by industry activities each year,” says Dr. Amanda Rodewald, Senior Director of Conservation Science at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“Consequently, the reinterpretation that excludes incidental take renders the Migratory Bird Treaty Act impotent on most sources of mortality for migratory birds.”

READ: 8 Tips to Help Migratory Birds

Reinterpretation of MBTA Weakens Protections for Birds

Dr. Rodewald says the reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act fundamentally weakens protections granted to birds.

Noting that it undermines the Act’s broader environmental and economic benefits to American society and our international treaty partners working to conserve birds.

“Because many of the same measures that protect birds also support human health and well-being, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act results in meaningful co-benefits for the environment, the U.S. economy, and Americans writ large,” she adds.

READ: If You’re Into Birds, Protect the MBTA

Without the MBTA, these beautiful Sandhill Crane chicks would not be here for us to enjoy
Without the MBTA, these beautiful Sandhill Crane chicks would not be here for us to enjoy

Highlights From Rodewald’s Testimony

During Dr. Rodewald’s testimony, she made the following key points to the House of Representatives subcommittee.

-A growing body of evidence indicates that we need to strengthen, not erode, our efforts to protect and conserve migratory birds.

-Migratory birds are subject to numerous threats and sources of mortality, of which the vast majority are unintentional or incidental.

-The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has long provided a powerful incentive for industry and landowners to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce harm to birds.

-When we protect birds and their habitats, we derive many co-benefits that support human health and well-being, the economy, and healthy environments.

What is good for birds is usually good for people, too.

Stay tuned to learn about the latest developments on this front.

We’ll be keeping readers updated.

Protect birds, and we protect the earth!

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