Biden Administration Reinstates Migratory Bird Protections

Image: USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Wikimedia Commons

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The Biden Administration announced that it would restore protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, enforcing rules that hold companies accountable for killing wild birds. The Trump Administration dramatically scaled back these rules, folding to the demands of oil companies, utilities, and other industries. Under these new rules, companies will be prosecuted if they anticipated bird deaths but made no attempt to avoid them.


Why this Matters: America’s birds are in trouble — two-thirds of all North American bird species are now at risk of extinction. On Wednesday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared 22 species extinct, including the iconic ivory-billed woodpecker.


The petroleum industry is particularly dangerous to birds, and, under the restored Migratory Bird Treaty Act, oil companies would once again be prosecuted for damage to avian populations. In 2010, BP settled for $100 million after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused the death of 100,000 birds. 


Free as a Bird?

Bird conservation agencies hope a permit program — that had been drafted during the Obama Administration but never implemented — would be brought back. Permits would require companies to take preventative measures to ensure birds’ safety, “such as installing screens to keep birds out of oil pits and turning off or altering telecommunication tower lights to reduce collisions,” according to NPR.


The new rules would also take stock of many threats to birds, like glass buildings, power lines, and chemical poisoning, which kills hundreds of thousands of birds.

“We’ve lost almost 3 billion birds in the last 50 years,” Jerome Ford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant director for migratory birds, told NPR. “We want to create a common-sense approach that works to both conserve birds and provide regulatory certainty to industry.”

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