Click on Activity 2 for background info, suggested comments, and contact info for Sec. Zinke.
On the 100thanniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), it is under threat by the Interior Department and some members of Congress. This is one of America’s, and the world’s, first environmental laws, established in 1918 to stem the mass killing of millions of birds, like the snowy egret, for feathers on women’s hats.
“Despite having “migratory” in its name, the MBTA protects almost all of North America’s native birds, regardless of whether they migrate or not. Over 1,000 species of birds are protected.” Explore, Mass Audubon, July/Sept. 2018.
To focus global attention on the importance of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Audubon Society, the National Geographic Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Birdlife International have designated 2018 the Year of the Bird. Each month of this year Audubonand National Geographicmagazines have featured excellent articles about birds, how our changing environment is affecting them, and what we can do to stop their decline.
Nancy’s note: For an excellent summer activity, check out the articles and photos from Audubonand Nat.Geo, and share them with your kids and grandkids. Start with “Why Birds Matter,” Nat.Geo., Jan. 2018. Also, read/watch this fantastic interactive article on migratory birds with videos, maps and graphs at this link:
“Shorebirds, the World’s Greatest Travelers, Face Extinction,” New York Times, 4/28/18
S1941, H.R. 4069 This bill amends the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the strongest bird protection law we have. The amendment removes legal responsibility of industries to reduce bird mortality.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act states that unless an individual has a valid hunting permit, “It shall be unlawful at any time, by any means, or in any manner” to “hunt, take, capture (or kill)” migratory birds.
The law makes industry accountable for excessive “unintended” industry-caused bird deaths. For decades the Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with industries to implement common sense best-management practices, like covering oil pits, flagging transmission lines, and determining best locations for wind turbines to reduce bird deaths. Only rarely have industries been fined for excessive bird deaths, because most companies voluntarily work to control the damage.
Industrial causes of bird mortality in the U.S. are huge:
- Power lines: up to 64 million birds/year.
- Communication towers: Up to 7 million birds per year.
- Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year.
- Oil spills: The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is estimated to have killed more than 1 million birds. (data from Audubon).
New interpretation of the law by the Interior Department gives industry a free pass to kill migratory birds with impunity.
“Now, as part of the Trump administration’s drive to remove “unnecessary” regulatory “burdens” on the energy industry, the Interior Department has advanced an alternative interpretation of the law that absolves companies from engaging in foreseeable and preventable activities that kill birds.” New York Times, June 7, ’18.
Contact: Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke
What should I say?
I urge you to reconsider changes to the government interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Do not weakenthe legal standard for industries to take commonsense, inexpensive actions to prevent millions of bird deaths.
I, along with most Americans, and many members of Congress, are passionate about the need to protect endangered migratory birds, and save their natural habitats, which are rapidly disappearing around the world.
Your leadership role must be to guide and help industries and ensure that they adopt every possible strategy for protecting our environment in the U.S. and around the globe. The stewardship actions of the Interior Department must include protecting all species, priority given to migratory birds.
Mr. Ryan Zinke
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240