Killing or taking a migratory bird can land you a hefty fine and a stay in prison. But what if you did so unintentionally? A new rule proposes to clarify that for us.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing a rule to reform the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The proposal would provide regulatory certainty to the public, industries, states, tribes and other stakeholders, according to the USFWS.
The rule clarifies that the scope of the MBTA only extends to birds intentionally injured. Migratory birds killed or injured unintentionally or incidentally is not prohibited under the act.
“With five federal circuit courts of appeals divided on this question, it is important to bring regulatory certainty to the public by clarifying that the criminal scope of the MBTA only reaches to conduct intentionally injuring birds,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rob Wallace. “That said, we will continue to work collaboratively with states, cities, conservation groups, industries, trade associations and citizens to ensure that best practices are followed to minimize unintended harm to birds and their habitats.”
The proposed rule codifies the 2017 Department of the Interior Solicitor’s Office Opinion M-37050, which analyzed the MBTA and determined the act only applies to the intentional taking of migratory birds.
The proposed rule has been positively received by the agriculture industry,
“With this announcement, Interior is taking steps to ensure well-meaning ranchers are not penalized for unintended take of birds protected under the Act,” said Kaitlynn Glover, Public Lands Council executive director and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of natural resources. and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of natural resources. “Western ranchers look forward to continuing work with Secretary [David] Bernhardt and Director [Aurelia] Skipwith as they implement the law and look for additional opportunities to improve the Act.”
However, the environmental groups don’t see the proposal as a victory.
“With a recent study finding there are 3 billion fewer birds in North America than 50 years ago, you’d think we’d want more protection for birds, not less,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This rule violates the trust and will of millions of Americans who love birds and want them around for future generations to enjoy.”
The group has already launched a lawsuit with several other groups against the Department of the Interior.
A 45-day scoping process is now in place, and comments can be submitted until March 19 at regulations.gov by searching Docket ID FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090; or by mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-HQ-MB-2018-0090; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: JAO/1N; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. — WLJ