Just this week a federal judge in New York struck down a Trump administration decision to scale back U.S. government protections for migratory birds. U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni berated the administration’s interpretation of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act as applying only if the animals are specifically targeted.
What is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?
Click here to view from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Website:
As stated, the law prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The list of migratory bird species protected by the law is primarily based on bird families and species included in the four international treaties. It covers a variety of birds such as eagles, red knots, Canada geese and vultures.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
“An estimated 500,000 to 1 million birds are killed annually in oil pits and evaporation ponds. In one study, 51 % of all birds found at oil and gas facilities were in heater-treaters, 30% in various pits, 4% in wastewater ponds, 4% tanks and trays, and 1% spills.”
The 2020 update identifies these migratory species, but are not protected because their presence in the United States or U.S. territories is solely the result of intentional or unintentional human-assisted introductions. Thus benefiting the critics of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, such as energy and oil companies, who have opposed the law as too broad.
Their action reversed decades of efforts to protect the animals as they navigate the globe. Essentially, if a landowner destroys an endangered owl’s nests without checking before building a barn or an oil company fails to cover a tar pit that birds could dive into and be killed could not be held responsible.
In a 31-page document, Caproni cited the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” to support her decision:
“It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime,” Caproni wrote. “That has been the letter of the law for the past century. But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”
What are your thoughts on the U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni’s decision?