WASHINGTON, DC, April 19, 2018 – Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today, along with 62 of his House colleagues, called on U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reverse an internal department legal reinterpretation of a century-old law that protects more than 1,000 species of migratory birds across North America. This recent reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) removes the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to mitigate incidental bird deaths due to industrial or commercial activities.

In a letter to Secretary Zinke, the Congress Members wrote, “We believe that  Congress determined that protected birds shall not be killed “by any means or in any manner” without a permit, and administrations for decades have reasonably applied the law’s mandate to address not only hunting, but industrial hazards as well.”

The MBTA has been used for decades to mitigate, through permitting of industrial and commercial activity, incidental bird deaths. Even when these deaths have not been avoided, the MBTA has been a critical tool to invest the penalties toward the recovery of impacted species. The MBTA fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which killed more than one million birds, resulted in $100 million for wetland restoration to benefit waterfowl and other birds through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

The letter concludes, “Eliminating agency authority to address incidental take [deaths] under the MBTA risks reversing the significant progress the nation has made in recovering and maintaining bird populations, needlessly ties the hands of the Department’s wildlife professionals, and undermines our international obligations. Continuing down this road, on the 100th anniversary of the MBTA, is an unconscionable rollback of one of our most important conservation laws. There are reasonable alternatives available to address this issue that will positively impact birds and provide greater regulatory certainty under the MBTA.”

To read the entire letter, please click here.