Federal Judge Rules Administration’s Bird-Killing Policy is Illegal

After Victory, Our Work Is Not Yet Done

In a major victory for the National Audubon Society and other conservation groups, a federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s unprecedented attack on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and restored its longstanding protections for birds. The court ruled that the MBTA does protect birds from industrial hazards, also known as “incidental take,” upholding the most effective bird protection law of our time.

U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni ruled on August 11, 2020, that the legal opinion which serves as the basis for the Trump administration rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not align with the intent and language of the 100-year-old law. In her ruling, Judge Caproni found that the policy “runs counter to the purpose of the MBTA to protect migratory bird populations” and is “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA”.

But our work is not yet done.

Also, the administration is nearing the end of a regulatory process to make the legal opinion ruled on by Judge Caproni permanent in the form of regulation. If the administration can finalize a rule codifying its interpretation prior to the election or a change in administrations, it may have a greater and more lasting effect than the court’s decision in this case.

As definitive as the court’s opinion is, the practical effect in the short term may be minimal.  The question of how broadly the MBTA will be applied is far from resolved.  It remains highly unlikely that the Trump Administration, even if unsuccessful in reversing the decision on appeal, would commence enforcement of incidental take of migratory birds that occurred indirectly or even as a foreseeable result of legitimate business activity.

“While we are very encouraged by the unambiguous district court decision, which validates our argument that the administration’s policy is in clear violation of the MBTA, the government could still appeal the decision. If they do so, we will continue to strongly defend the MBTA in court. At the same time, they could still move forward with a proposed regulation that would essentially reinstate this unlawful and harmful policy,” said Sarah Greenberger, Interim Chief Conservation Officer for the National Audubon Society.

Congress must pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act (MBPA) which would reverse the rollback of the MBTA and reinstate bird protections. There is still time for the House to vote on the MBPA this year.

You can help.

· Complete this Audubon Action Alert to let Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler know you support the MBPA.

· Share the Audubon Action Alert with family and friends.

· Share on social media. Please use #ProtectTheBirds in any tweets or Instagram posts around the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or Migratory Bird Protection Act.Tweet

Published by Susan Saul

Conservation Chair, Vancouver Audubon Society

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