July 16, 2020 – The U.S. Department of the Interior is in the final stages of codifying a new rule that excludes so-called “incidental take” from Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. This new rule reverses longstanding federal policy that has held industry liable for negligent actions that resulted in preventable bird deaths, such as the 1 million birds killed in the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Amanda Rodewald, professor and senior director of conservation science with Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, has submitted a public comment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of this proposed new rule. Rodewald says that with its proposed rule change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is falling short of its organizational mission to protect birds and failing to simplify the regulatory environment for businesses.
“The Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are legally mandated to conserve and protect migratory bird populations as best they can. Yet the proposed rule nullifies the agency’s authority in cases of incidental take and neuters the 102-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act in protecting against most sources of mortality for migratory birds.
“The agency claims it is taking this action to provide regulatory certainty for industry, yet in effect it is just pushing the incidental-take regulation to the states, where there will be a patchwork of regulations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule both undermines its organizational mission to protect birds and falls short of its stated aim to provide regulatory certainty for industry.”
A summary of Rodewald’s public comment can be viewed online here.