Trump administration to relax rules on killing birds

Birds fly on and off of a lamp post on 5th Avenue in New York City on November 30, 2018. The Trump administration is changing its interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to shield companies from regulations to protect migratory birds. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Nov. 28 (UPI) — The Trump administration Friday published an analysis of the 102-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act that would shield companies from responsibility for “incidentally” killing birds.

The weakening of the law through the new interpretation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would likely lead to more bird deaths because energy companies, construction firms and land developers would have less incentive to take precautionary measures to protect birds, the analysis said.

“This proposed rule clarifies that the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act applies only to intentional injuring or killing of birds,” a statement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife said. “Conduct that results in the unintentional (incidental) injury or death of migratory birds is not prohibited under the act.”

The administration had been gunning for a new interpretation of the law since 2017. In August, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni rejected efforts to change the rule.

“There is nothing in the text of the MBTA that suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, the activity must be directed specifically at birds,” Caproni said in her ruling. “Nor does the statute prohibit only intentionally killing migratory birds. And it certainly does not say that only ‘some’ kills are prohibited.”

The new analysis suggested, though, that scaling back the rule was a “preferred alternative” to how the law is currently applied.

Attorneys general in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, California and New Mexico, have all fought the administration in modifying the rules.


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