Opposing Federal Efforts to Weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

Number 2020-04

WHEREAS, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) abolished the unregulated taking of all migratory birds and the commercial trade of bird species and bird parts such as feathers; and

WHEREAS, the MBTA codifies the United States’ obligations to protect migratory birds pursuant to an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom on behalf of Canada (later joined by Mexico, Japan, and Russia) and has stood as a cornerstone of wildlife conservation for more than a century, so these international obligations should not be unilaterally undermined; and

WHEREAS, the enactment of the MBTA helped avert what had been the pending and nearly certain extinction of numerous migratory species, including the snowy egret and the wood duck, and currently provides protection for over 800 migratory bird species; and

WHEREAS, the MBTA allows for the responsible hunting of many migratory bird species classified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as “game birds,” including waterfowl, white winged doves and sandhill cranes; and

WHEREAS, the MBTA prohibits all killing, harm, and other take of migratory birds without a permit—whether intentional or unintentional&—and provides for a permitting process to authorize allowable and incidental take, a process that has to date, never been established; and

WHEREAS, the MBTA allows for penalties for the operation of facilities that result in the incidental take of migratory birds, including infrastructure such as power lines, communications towers, uncovered oil waste pits, mining waste settling basins, and wind turbines; and

WHEREAS, it is imperative that the MBTA remain in full force and effect so it may continue to protect against all losses of migratory birds, including incidental losses; and

WHEREAS, the MBTA has been weakened by recent misinterpretations of the law by the U.S. Department of Interior that would end penalties for industries whose activities result in incidental take of migratory birds; and

WHEREAS, federal penalties for industrial activities that have resulted in the incidental take of migratory birds have ranged as high as $100 million for BP after its 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed more than 1 million migratory birds; and

WHEREAS, penalties under the MBTA have been distributed through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to restore habitat for waterfowl and other affected migratory birds.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation, at its Annual Meeting assembled June 12, 2020, opposes any legislative or administrative efforts to undermine the MBTA by limiting its application to exclude incidental take; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports a permit system to be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage all impacts to migratory birds, including incidental take, by establishing clear and consistent guidelines for industries and individuals; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports federal legislation that would prohibit the incidental take of migratory birds by commercial activities unless authorized under a permit or identified as posing a de minimis risk to migratory birds.