American bittern
Image credit: cuatrok77

For decades, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA; the Act) has guided the protection and management of more than 1,000 migratory bird species across the United States. Born out of the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty, it is one of the United States’ oldest and most significant federal wildlife laws.

Legislation aimed at strengthening this foundational law and promoting partnership between the U.S. government and private industry has been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives with the bipartisan backing of dozens of members of Congress.

This bill, known as the Migratory Bird Protection Act, will accomplish improved public-private species conservation efforts through two much-needed initiatives:

Provide incidental take protections for species listed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The federal government has for decades interpreted that incidental take, or the harming or killing of birds during otherwise legal activities such as energy extraction or utility operations, was subject to regulation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Regulatory changes made in the prior administration threw this into doubt, when the U.S. Department of the Interior attempted to implement a new MBTA interpretation that no longer covered the regulation of incidental take.

Each year, an estimated 64 million birds are incidentally killed by power lines, with an additional five million killed by communications towers and nearly 600,000 by wind energy operations. Through passage of the Migratory Bird Protection Act, federal regulators and private industry will be able to work together on these challenges without fear of sudden changes to the Act’s implementation.

Create an incidental take permitting program for industry to continue operations in line with best management practices

The Migratory Bird Protection Act’s creation of an incidental permitting program will provide regulatory certainty for industry partners that follow best management practices in avoidance of bird deaths during their operations. For incidental take that is unable to be avoided during operations, industry partners will have the ability to pay into federal migratory bird mitigation and conservation initiatives. This common sense strategy gives industry clear and consistent expectations for protecting birds without jeopardizing the United States’ international treaty commitments and conservation legacy.

Now, we need your help to get this bill across the finish line! You can take action now in support of migratory bird species and the professionals that work to conserve them by reaching out to your member of Congress to request their support. Check out the widget above to make your voice heard. 

Questions on how to best engage? Reach out to For additional resources, check out our fact sheet and our form letter. Form letters can be used by units to directly engage their members of Congress for support.