FWS cancels migratory bird review, backing further away from conservation efforts

Credit: Mick Thompson/Flickr

Following the U.S. Department of the Interior's reinterpretation (and effective gutting) of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now canceled a long-term review that would provide more scientific analysis of the bedrock conservation law. The review, which began in 2015, would have examined what the environmental impact might be if the law permitted incidental takings (i.e. unintentional killings) of migratory birds. The MBTA has always been enforced to prevent both intentional and incidental takings of migratory birds. So if you, say, spill more than three million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and kill a million birds doing so, you would have expected big MBTA penalties. But late last year, the Trump administration issued an opinion that only intentional takings of birds should be punishable. The substantial rollback, and the subsequent cancellation of the FWS review, are both discouraging moves away from urgent conservation work: Worldwide, 40 percent of avian species are in decline, and a recent study shows one in eight bird species are threatened with extinction.

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