100 Years of Bird Protections Reinstated

A huge win for birds was just handed down by the Southern District of New York. Judge Valerie Caproni issued a decision throwing out the Department of the Interior’s gutting of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On page 1, the decision so aptly begins with:

It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime. 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. 

Thankfully, the court recognized that Interior’s bold-faced giveaway to the oil and gas industry had no grounding in the plain language or conservation intent of the century-old MBTA. As a matter of law, the Interior Solicitor’s Opinion failed to pass muster and the agency was sent back to the drawing board on their attempts to unravel the long history of enforcement against industrial killings of birds.

The MBTA is one of our nation’s first wildlife conservation laws and most important for birds, implementing both domestic prohibitions against killing birds and our international commitments to conserve migratory bird populations. With this decision, the agency’s prior longstanding interpretation that the MBTA prohibits incidental take of birds is reinstated and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can once again enforce against industrial bird slaughters.

About the Authors

Katie Umekubo

Senior Attorney, Lands Division, Nature Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.