The Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Trump and Co want to ditch a law that protects birds. Yeah, who needs birds anyway?

The bird protection law—known officially as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—is more important now than ever. It protects more than 1,000 species of birds by making it illegal to kill or harm any birds not covered by permits.

Stripping the nation’s longest-standing bird conservation law of its authority to protect birds contradicts decades of bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats. If the law is decapitated by the Interior Department and by legislative proposals authored by Wyoming GOP Representative Liz Cheney, millions of our most iconic and beloved birds will be at huge risk.

The penalties under the bird protection law are critical incentives for companies to take common sense precautions to help reduce bird kills, such as covering oil pits with nets and marking transmission lines so they are more visible to migrating birds. The penalties create just enough of an incentive that companies have to think twice about where and how they work.

They’re not onerous; they’ve proven to be a helpful incentive to remind companies to do the right thing for wildlife.

The law is good for both birds and industry innovation. A number of good actors— a coalition of power and utility companies —have come together to identify best practices for preventing bird deaths. That has led to the increased use of bird-safe, money-saving technologies.

Wind projects in the west are using video technology to scan the sky and identify eagles as they approach a wind turbine. If the eagle flies too close, the system temporarily shuts off only the turbines in the collision path. And for communications towers, low-tech solutions already in use can be as simple as changing lights on communications towers from steady red lights to flashing lights.

With so many solutions and partnerships between utilities and conservation groups already underway, it is a mystery why just days before Christmas—in the hopes that no one would notice—the Department of the Interior announced it would no longer hold industry responsible for bird deaths.

It’s even more curious that many of the same industries that have been working on these common-sense solutions for protecting birds were encouraging the department’s decision.

The Interior Department announcement followed Cheney’s legislative amendment in November that would eliminate all responsibility from companies for bird deaths.

The bill with her amendment is awaiting a floor vote in the House.

So long, birds.

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