Displaying items by tag: American Bird Conservancy

(Washington, D.C., March 8, 2021) The current Administration today revoked the controversial m-opinion (Solicitor's Opinion M-37050) that weakened protections for more than 1,000 species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This m-opinion sought to codify a legal opinion that would have ended all enforcement against the predictable and preventable killing of migratory birds from commercial activities. The public will also be invited to comment on revoking a similar rule undermining the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and advancing practices that can reduce bird mortality.

“Migratory birds will greatly benefit from today’s decision,” says Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy at American Bird Conservancy, which was a plaintiff in the case challenging the m-opinion. “We’ve seen great progress by telecommunications companies, as well as the energy transmission and production industries, to find ways to reduce incidental bird mortality. We appreciate the opportunity to comment in support of making these established best-management practices into standard practices.”

Hundreds of millions of birds are currently migrating north to their breeding grounds but their journeys are ever-more perilous. Collisions with buildings, wind turbines, and communication towers and powerlines are threats to migratory birds. Mortality from each of these sources can be greatly reduced or eliminated using already available mitigation measures. Today’s decision helps reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation.

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).   

 

Expeditions Planned This Year Will Help Scientists Learn More About the Species

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A black-browed babbler accidentally caught in Kalimantan, Borneo. It was the first confirmed sighting of the species in more than 170 years. The bird was released unharmed back to the forest after the photo was taken. Photo courtesy of Birdpacker

(Washington, D.C., February 25, 2021) After more than 170 years, locals in Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, have helped rediscover the lost Black-browed Babbler. The bird has been missing since it was first described and collected by scientists around 1848. Since then, the trail to find the Black-browed Babbler has gone cold, despite several attempts to find it, leaving scientists in the dark about its ecology, population, and behavior. Many feared the species might have been extinct. The rediscovery was published in Oriental Bird Club’s journal BirdingASIA today, Feb. 25.

“Globally, there are more than 150 bird species that are currently ‘lost,’ with no confirmed observations in the past 10 years,” said John C. Mittermeier, Director of Threatened Species Outreach at American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “ABC, Global Wildlife Conservation, BirdLife International, and eBird are working together to help find these species. Hopefully, the rediscovery of the Black-browed Babbler will spark interest in finding other lost bird species in Asia and around the world.”

Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan rediscovered the elusive Black-browed Babbler in October 2020 during a weekly trip to gather forest products in Southern Kalimantan Province, Borneo. After accidentally capturing a bird, which neither recognized, they took some photos and then released it unharmed back to the forest. They sent the photos to the local birdwatching group BW Galeatus in hopes that they would be able to identify it.

The group suspected it might be the Black-browed Babbler, and immediately contacted ornithologists Panji Gusti Akbar, Teguh Willy Nugroho, and Ding Li Yong, who compared the photos taken in southern Kalimantan to a current field guide description and photos of the only known specimen of the species, at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

“It was a bit like a ‘Eureka!’ moment,” said Gusti Akbar, of the Indonesian bird conservation group Birdpacker and lead author of the paper. “This bird is often called ‘the biggest enigma in Indonesian ornithology.’ It’s mind-blowing to think that it’s not extinct and it’s still living in these lowland forests, but it’s also a little scary because we don’t know if the birds are safe or how much longer they may survive.”

The new photos of a live Black-browed Babbler immediately yielded new information about the species. Scientists now have a better understanding of the species’ true coloration. The babbler’s iris, bill, and legs were slightly different colors than that of the original specimen, but the difference was not surprising to scientists, since those areas often lose their tint and are artificially colored during the taxidermy process. 

The rediscovery is helping scientists and conservationists answer questions that have been swirling for more than a century. Scientists had never been sure where the bird lived in the wild. The original and only specimen collected by German geologist and naturalist Carl A.L.M. Schwaner between 1843 and 1848, and described by Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1850, was initially mislabeled and described as being from Java. In 1895, naturalist Johann Büttikofer found that the specimen could not have been from Java because Schwaner had not collected any birds on the island. After reviewing and scrutinizing records of Schwaner’s travel in Indonesia, scientists speculated that he may have found the bird near the city of Martapura or Banjarmasin in Borneo.

“I think it is amazing that we managed to document one of the most remarkable zoological discoveries in Indonesia, largely through online communication, in the midst of the pandemic, which has hampered us from visiting the site,” said Teguh Willy Nugroho, who works in Sebangau National Park in Kalimantan and is one of the coauthors on the paper.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, scientists have not been able to travel to the area where the Black-browed Babbler was found, but they are working on a second paper to document its ecology and are hoping to work with local government agencies to plan expeditions later this year.

“When the species was first discovered, now-extinct birds like the Great Auk and Passenger Pigeon were still alive,” said Yong, a co-author on the paper and a Singapore-based conservationist with BirdLife International. “There is now a critical window of opportunity for conservationists to secure these forests to protect the babbler and other species.”

Scientists know very little about the Black-browed Babbler, but the Indonesian authors of the paper are hoping to work with local government agencies to quickly change that. They plan to travel to Borneo to identify exactly where the species lives, interview locals, study the babbler’s behavior, and assess the population — information that could be used to recommend a new status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The bird is currently listed as Data Deficient and scientists are hoping to determine if and to what extent the species is threatened with extinction.

“Discoveries like this are incredible and give us so much hope that it’s possible to find other species that have been lost to science for decades or longer,” said Barney Long, Global Wildlife Conservation’s (GWC’s) Senior Director of Species Conservation and a lead on GWC’s Search for Lost Species program. “Collaborations between conservationists, local communities, and Indigenous peoples are crucial to learning about and saving these elusive species.”

There are more than 1,600 species of birds that live across the Indonesian archipelago. Scientists are hoping that the discovery may rekindle interest in surveying birds in under-researched areas. GWC and ABC, BirdLife International, and eBird are working to mount searches for lost birds around the world.

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).   

Global Wildlife Conservation conserves the diversity of life on Earth by safeguarding wildlands, protecting wildlife and supporting guardians. We maximize our impact through scientific research, biodiversity exploration, habitat conservation, protected area management, wildlife crime prevention, endangered species recovery, and conservation leadership cultivation. Learn more at https://globalwildlife.org

Lawsuit Filed to Restore Bird Protections

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Kentucky Warblers are among the hundreds of bird species that benefit from a strong Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo by Frode Jacobsen

(Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021) A coalition of national environmental groups filed litigation (Case Number: 1:21-cv-00448) today challenging the current Administration's move to eliminate longstanding protections for waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The litigants include American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The move challenges a new rule by the outgoing Administration that greatly weakens essential protections provided by the MBTA. This rule comes at a time when scientists have raised alarm over the loss of 3 billion North American birds during the past 50 years. It would end enforcement against “incidental take” of birds ― the predictable and preventable killing of birds by industrial practices. The Administration seeks to codify this in spite of the fact that last August, a federal judge struck down this opinion.

“We urge President-elect Biden to quickly eliminate this threat to migratory birds and act to establish a permitting system to reduce preventable mortality,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “Congress can support this effort by passing the Migratory Bird Protection Act.

“Last fall, a federal court overturned the Administration’s reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that ended decades of enforcement and let industry off the hook for killing birds,” said Holmer. “Today’s lawsuit challenges a federal rule based on the same bad reasoning.”

The outgoing Administration continues to argue that the law applies only to the intentional killing of birds and not “incidental” killing from industrial activities activities that kill millions of birds every year, such as oil spills and electrocutions on power lines. This reinterpretation was first put in place in December 2017 through a legal opinion from the Interior Department.

Citing To Kill a Mockingbird, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni wrote that “if the Department of the Interior has its way, many Mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.” In rejecting the Administration’s opinion, the court noted that the MBTA makes it unlawful to kill birds “by any means whatever or in any manner” — thus the Administration's interpretation violates the plain language of the statute.

“Implementation of this rule will result in the needless killing of birds at a time when many bird species desperately need our help,” said ABC President Mike Parr. “It’s always our preference to solve problems without lawsuits, but the egregious nature of this rule requires nothing less.”

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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A new federal rule filed today exempts one-third of the imperiled Northern Spotted Owl’s habitat from ESA protections. Photo by Chris Warren

(Washington, D.C., January 13, 2021) The current Administration today filed a new Northern Spotted Owl critical habitat rule that has the potential to hasten the extinction of this declining subspecies. A revision of the critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act, the rule originally proposed to exempt only about 200,000 acres from critical habitat protections. However, the final rule instead exempts 3.4 million acres — a huge expanse of territory totaling about one-third of the owl’s protected habitat.
 
The Northern Spotted Owl inhabits only northern California and the Pacific Northwest. This decision comes on the heels of a determination that the owl is already moving toward extinction, even before this loss of habitat protection.

“This rule poses a severe threat to the Northern Spotted Owl and another threatened bird depending on old-growth foreststhe Marbled Murrelet,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Just last month, federal scientists concluded that the rapidly declining population of Northern Spotted Owl should have its status changed from Threatened to Endangered. Instead, this new rule puts the owl at even greater risk.”

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Cats and COVID-19

Information and resources for those concerned about their cats during the pandemic

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Keeping cats indoors is safer for cats, people, and wildlife. ABC has numerous resources to help pet owners transition their cats to full-time indoor living, including enrichment activities, literature, and more. Photo by Nikita Starichenko/Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., April 10, 2020) As the COVID-19 pandemic tragically continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe, evidence is mounting that domestic cats and other felines may also be at risk of contracting the disease. Professional organizations and new research suggest keeping pet cats indoors to manage infection risks.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) this week recommended that people who are self-isolating or have COVID-19 symptoms keep their cats indoors. According to BVA, it is possible that outdoor cats may carry the virus on their fur, just as the virus can live on other surfaces.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s standing policy is that pet cats be kept indoors. Their policy states that “keeping owned cats confined, such as housing them in an enriched indoor environment, in an outdoor enclosure, or exercising leash-acclimated cats, can minimize the risks to the cats, wildlife, humans, and the environment.”

For people wanting to respond to these concerns by transitioning their cats from the outdoors to indoors, whether temporarily or permanently, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) offers a range of helpful solutions on its website that were developed over years of consultation with veterinarians and pet owners. 

New studies from researchers in China, where the virus was first identified, evaluated SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, to determine host susceptibilities and to better understand how the virus may move through the environment. These studies (Luan et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2020; Sun et al. preprint; Zhang et al. preprint), taken together, concluded that domestic cats are susceptible to infection, that infections have occurred both in experimental trials and outside the laboratory, and that infected domestic cats may transmit the virus to uninfected domestic cats.

Domestic cat infections have also been recently reported in Belgium and Hong Kong. Two Malayan Tigers, two Amur Tigers, and three Lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York have also shown symptoms of infection, and the only tiger to be tested came back positive for COVID-19. It’s suspected that people exposed these felines to the virus. So far, the disease does not appear to be fatal to cats, and there is no evidence that the disease has passed from cats to people.

“Keeping pet cats safely contained indoors, on a leash, or in a catio is always a great choice to protect cats, birds, and people,” said Grant Sizemore, Director of Invasive Species Programs at ABC. “At this point, it appears that keeping pet cats indoors is also the safer alternative to ensure the virus isn’t accidentally picked up or transferred by the cat.”

As well as being at risk from diseases, cars, and other threats, outdoor cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion wild birds each year in the U.S. alone.

Since 1997, ABC’s Cats Indoors program has supported responsible cat ownership that not only protects birds and other wildlife but also supports long, healthy lives for pet cats. Cat owners interested in bringing their cats indoors, or providing safe outdoor time for their pets, can find resources on the Cats Indoors website.

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Talkin' Pets News

August 17, 2019

Host - Jon Patch

Co-Host - Jillyn Sidlo - Celestrial Custom Dog Services

Producer - Daisey Charlotte

Network Producer - Andrew Moerschel

Social Media - Bob Page

Special Guest - Author Hilary Kearney will join Jon and Talkin' Pets 8/17/19 at 5pm ET to discuss and give away her new book "QueenSpotting"

 

                                                                                                      

Greater Sage-Grouse populations remain in serious trouble. Photo by Tom Reichner/Shutterstock

The Administration has finalized major changes to the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans. These changes gut vital protections for the grouse; undermine the deal made by Western states and federal officials; and create uncertainty for millions of Westerners and the bird.

 

The revised plans eliminate vital protections for the sage-grouse. Specifically, most of the Sagebrush Focal Areas — 8.7 million acres of the key habitat for grouse and some 350 other species that were off limits to immediate development in the original plans — are now exposed to increased oil and gas extraction and other energy development.

 

“Federal administrators began dismantling safeguards put in place by the 2015 plans as soon as they could, removing each layer of conservation management and mitigation,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Now grouse populations are declining across their range and have nearly disappeared from Washington State and the Dakotas. The trend is ominous.”

 

“These changes will put the grouse back on a path toward needing an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing,” said Mike Parr, ABC President. “That’s exactly the outcome that the 2015 cooperative plans had sought to prevent.”

 

Please see additional ABC information on sage-grouse:

Op-Ed: Will Federal Policies Doom the Sage-Grouse to Extinction?

Petition to Save the Grouse

 

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).

 

 

Talkin' Pets News

January 12, 2019

Host - Jon Patch

Co-Host - Dr. Suzanne Topor - Livingston Animal & Avian Hospital - Lutz, FL

Producer - Zach Budin

Network Producer - Quin McCarthy

Social Media and Production - Bob Page

Special Guest - Dani-Elle Kleha Releases a New EP "Runnin' On Dreams" and will join Jon and Talkin' Pets 1/12/19 at 630pm ET to discuss her new music, pets and give away some CD's

 

(Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018) The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing new rules to implement for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that will make it more difficult to recover Threatened and Endangered birds.

“These rules put species listed as ‘Threatened,’ rather than the more dire category of ‘Endangered,’ at greater risk of endangerment by eliminating the blanket protection known as the 4d rule,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Under these changes, birds newly listed as Threatened could legally be killed or harmed. The changes would also make it more difficult to list species that the best science indicates should be listed, and to conserve and restore habitat, due to the weakening of Sec. 7 consultation for management of federal lands.

“Several bird species listed as Threatened under the ESA — the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl in particular — likely owe their current existence to the ESA’s blanket 4d rule against take and the interagency cooperation mandated by Sec. 7,” continued Holmer.

One of the proposed changes is to adopt the 4d rule process currently used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for marine species. Instead of providing blanket protection for species newly listed as Threatened, NOAA puts 4d rules in place as threats arise, leading to delays in conservation action.

For example, because the Hawaiian monk seal is listed as Endangered, NOAA is addressing the emerging threat of the disease toxoplasmosis on the seal. “If the monk seal were listed as a Threatened species instead of Endangered under the ESA, it would require additional protection from toxoplasmosis in the form of new 4-d rule,” said Holmer. “The overall effect could be substantially delayed protection and an increased risk of further population losses.”

Seventy-eight percent of mainland birds listed as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted, according to a 2016 report published by American Bird Conservancy. The Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success analyzed population trends and recovery success for all U.S. listed birds, including those in the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories where the recovery success rate is lower due to the high number of threats.

“Added funding could help continue the upward trend of 41 listed U.S. bird populations and make their eventual recovery possible,” said Holmer. “Black-capped Vireo was recently delisted, and Kirtland’s Warbler and Nene (Hawaiian Goose) are on their way toward delisting due to successful conservation. We are supportive of these delistings provided that adequate conservation measures are assured moving forward.”

A proposed definition change to the ESA would make it easier to eliminate critical habitat, because any loss would have to be considered “as a whole.”

“Critical habitat is essential for maintaining and recovering species, but this change would allow the loss of habitat to occur drip by drip,” Holmer said. “Eventually there could be little critical habitat left.”

Another change could undermine the listing process by allowing for misleading economic analysis to be included in the listing rule, potentially inviting political interference. The benefits of wildlife conservation, which provide billions of dollars to the economy, are undervalued or not even included in these analyses.

“Maintaining the existing science-based listing process is crucial to conserve declining bird populations,” said Holmer. “Just this decade, seven new populations of birds were listed. If slanted economic analysis were included, it is likely that some of these species — such as the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red Knot, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse — may not have been granted ESA protection due to political interference. American Bird Conservancy is urging that the existing science-based listing process be retained.”

A 60-day comment period has been set for these proposed changes. Submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo: Changes to the ESA may reduce protections for birds such as Red Knots. Photo by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

 

(Washington, D.C., June 27, 2018) Nearly 100 years ago, on July 3, 1918, the United States enacted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to protect migratory birds. Passed in the nick of time, the Act helped restore populations of many birds, ranging from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. The original Act was a means of implementing a 1916 treaty between the U.S. and Canada intended to ensure the preservation of migratory bird species.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act — now under unprecedented threat — has played an essential role in the restoration of bird populations across the country, from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. Photo of Great Blue Herons by FloridaStock/Shutterstock

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been a remarkable success,” said Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy. “The Act's authors responded to migratory bird declines by focusing on the threats of the early 20th century, and they would have been proud to see how the Act has been used to protect birds from modern threats.

“By keeping the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strong, we can build on that conservation success. We can avoid preventable deaths caused by human influences such as industrial development and misuse of pesticides — and ensure that future generations of Americans enjoy the same wondrous spectacle of migratory birds we do today.”

 
At 100, Successful Law is Under Attack

In a legal opinion issued December 2017, the Administration abruptly reversed decades of government policy and practice — by both Democratic and Republican administrations — on the implementation and enforcement of the MBTA. The Act's prohibition on the killing or "taking" of migratory birds has long been understood to extend to “incidental take” — meaning unintentional, but predictable and avoidable killing from threats such as oil pits that trap birds, and tall towers and power lines responsible for many bird collisions. Under the Administration's revised interpretation, the MBTA's protections will apply only to activities that purposefully kill birds. Any incidental take — no matter how inevitable, avoidable, or devastating its impact on birds — is now immune from enforcement under the law.

A coalition of national environmental groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed litigation, challenging the Administration's move to eliminate these longstanding protections.

Opposition against the weakening of the Act is also mounting in Congress. Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources are holding a roundtable discussion today to discuss potential next steps to counter the Administration and to discuss the benefits of creating an incidental take permitting system.

In addition, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, calling on him to keep enforcing the MBTA, cited as the country's most important bird conservation law.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this opinion and to cease any corresponding efforts to change agency rules or guidance under the MBTA,” the Senators wrote in their letter to Sec. Zinke. “Instead, we ask that you continue to enforce this foundational bird conservation law as every administration from across the political spectrum has done for more than 40 years.”

In their letter, the Senators call attention to the 100-year history of the MBTA and why it remains essential. “For the 1,000 species of birds protected by the MBTA, the menace of market hunting and the plume trade have since disappeared, but the threats to birds have not,” they wrote. “The rapid industrialization of the country in the 20th century created new threats, as millions of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds began to die tragic deaths after being trapped in oil pits, electrocuted on power lines, and more.”

ABC and a coalition of more than 500 conservation groups have called on Congress to defend the Act. And, in a remarkable show of support for keeping the MBTA strong, 17 high-ranking officials from previous Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Sec. Zinke opposing the change. "This legal opinion is contrary to the long-standing interpretation by every administration (Republican and Democrat) since at least the 1970s, who held that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strictly prohibits the unregulated killing of birds," they wrote.

The bipartisan group of signers includes several former Deputy Secretaries of Interior and several former directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They agreed on the effectiveness of the MBTA, stating, "The Migratory Bird Treaty Act can and has been successfully used to reduce gross negligence by companies that simply do not recognize the value of birds to society or the practical means to minimize harm.”

MBTA Needed Now to Reverse Population Declines
 

Sensitive to climate change and habitat loss, birds are among our best indicators of how ecosystems have been altered and how well we are doing at mitigating these changes. The news is not good: In the State of North America's Birds 2016 report — an unprecedented trilateral analysis of how our birds are faring across the United States, Canada, and Mexico — data revealed that many of our bird species are disappearing, hastened along by habitat destruction, climate change, pesticides, and invasive species, among other factors. Today, fully one-third of all North American bird species, including seabirds, shorebirds, and grassland songbirds, urgently need conservation action.

“Migratory birds are more valuable than many realize,” Holmer said. “While birds have inherent value, they are also an economic driver, with U.S. bird enthusiasts spending billions of dollars on wildlife-watching equipment, backyard birding supplies, and birding tourism. Even more important, birds contribute to the biodiversity necessary to the health of our planet. They provide essential services to people, from natural control of insect pests to seed dispersal and pollination of our crops.

“Beyond their ecological significance, birds also connect us to our environment and nature in a positive feedback loop needed for human well-being, especially at a time when many people have too few chances to connect with wildlife and the outdoors,” Holmer continued. “Birds exist all around us, easily found right in our own backyards and parks. They uplift our spirits every day with their beauty and song.”

Protecting Birds from Needless Deaths
 

The risk of liability under the MBTA has long provided the oil and gas industry, wind energy development companies, and power transmission line operators with an incentive to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize bird deaths. For example, in an effort to protect migratory birds and bats and avoid potential MBTA liability, the wind energy industry, conservation groups, and the Service worked to develop comprehensive guidelines aimed at ensuring best practices for siting and developing wind projects. The Administration's new policy eliminates this incentive for industries and individuals to minimize and mitigate foreseeable impacts of their activities on migratory birds, putting already-declining populations of our nation's songbirds and other migratory birds at risk.

"Some companies put strong conservation practices in place without needing legal incentives,” said Holmer. “But having the law in place encourages all companies to do the right thing. These changes to the MBTA would take the teeth out of the only law that protects the vast majority of our native birds."

Millions of birds are killed by preventable industrial causes each year. Hundreds of thousands are killed by wind turbines — a number that continues to grow. Millions more perish at associated power lines and towers.

“Because of the MBTA, we have seen steady progress toward reducing sources of bird mortality,” Holmer added. “Best management practices, like covering oil pits with screens, put little burden on industry but reduce the needless deaths of birds.”

In practice, enforcement of the MBTA has only occurred in a few instances when companies failed to adopt accepted industry best practices — and ignored government cautions and requests for mitigation. Only a handful of companies from across the energy sector have been prosecuted and fined, in spite of their known impacts on birds.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

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