Migratory birds gain back protections

In a highly anticipated set of regulatory actions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reinstating incidental take protections for species listed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

This week, the USFWS published a final rule to revoke a January 2021 decision eliminating the USFWS’ ability to regulate incidental harming or killing of bird species.

While the public and international treaty partners raised significant concerns about the January 2021 rule, The Wildlife Society spoke out against the interpretation of the prior Administration and supported the current effort to revoke the January ruling.

With the revocation of this rule, the USFWS will return to interpreting the MBTA as prohibiting all incidental take of bird species, not just intentional take.

“This historic announcement will ensure that federal natural resource professionals are empowered to once again work with industry to support necessary conservation practices,” said Caroline Murphy, AWB®, government relations manager at The Wildlife Society.

In addition to this new rule, the USFWS is seeking public comment on creating an incidental take permitting program where industry partners would work cooperatively with federal agencies to ensure implementation of best management practices during operations.

“The Wildlife Society looks forward to engaging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a permitting framework that will ensure species are conserved in line with best conservation and management practices,” Murphy said.

The Wildlife Society also supports legislation that would further solidify this legal framework for migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 4833) was introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatirck (R-PA). If enacted, the MBPA will ensure the enforcement of incidental take is codified into law and resilient to changes in Administration. The legislation would also ensure that the USFWS is fully empowered to implement an incidental take permitting program.

Header Image: American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is one species protected under the MBTA. Credit: Barbara Wheeler