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Major Risks to Birds Ignored through Proposed Migratory Bird Treaty Act Changes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A draft environmental impact statement put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inadequately examines impacts on bird species and is part of a fundamental abdication of the Service’s duty to protect America’s bird species through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“The proposed rule change unnecessarily risks dire results for vulnerable bird populations that are already in decline," said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation. "The Trump administration should reverse course and restore regulations to safeguard America’s birds.”

Proposed changes to how the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is enforced — dropping enforcement of “incidental” killing of migratory birds — will reduce protections for wildlife at a time when birds are facing unprecedented challenges.

A recent National Wildlife Federation analysis of the 15,649 globally threatened species tracked for population trends by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List found that 90 percent are declining, 9 percent are stable and only 1 percent are increasing. Stripping protections that have safeguarded America’s birds for more than a century — compounded with population declines due to climate change, habitat loss and pollution — creates an uncertain future for more than 1,000 species deserving of protection through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In 2018, the National Wildlife Federation, along with a coalition of environmental groups, jointly sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the legal directive behind the proposed rule, arguing that this interpretation of the bedrock law is illegal.

As a result of the rollback, earlier this year the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Migratory Bird Protection Act to supplement the protections for migratory birds that will be lost through the unlawful interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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