Biden Administration to Reverse Trump’s Rollback on Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Until the very end, the Trump administration led an open assault on the environment. Since the beginning of his days in the office, Trump had been working to deregulate, undo or weaken numerous laws and policies set in place by Trump’s predecessors to protect threatened species and the environment. However, the Biden administration has announced that it will reverse Trump’s rollback on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
Since 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been protecting the avian species, according to which it was illegal to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, or kill… in any manner, any migratory bird.” Even when companies accidentally inflicted harm to such birds, they have been required to pay heavy fines.
But the Trump Administration changed the way this law was enforced. On January 5, 2021, the administration settled a rule specifying not to prosecute or fine companies or individuals for accidentally killing migratory birds. Experts feared that this alteration in the rule greatly weakened protections for birds at a time when many species are already in decline.
However, on March 8, the Biden administration announced its plans to toss aside this controversial alteration. In a statement, an Interior Department spokesperson Tyler Cherry said that the Trump administration’s rollback “overturned decades of bipartisan and international consensus and allowed the industry to kill birds with impunity.” He further added that the department will soon issue a new proposal to revoke the Trump rule altogether.
In December 2017, Daniel Jorjani, then the top lawyer at the Department of the Interior and a former longtime advisor to the fossil fuel mogul Koch brothers, released an interpretation of the century-old MBTA that effectively legalized all unintentional migratory bird deaths caused by anthropological activities, including those caused by chemical and oil spills, gas operations, power lines, and wind turbines.
Jorjani stated that the law was only meant to prohibit the intentional hunting, capturing, or killing of migratory bird species and that as long as the company or individual does not intend to kill, they are protected from prosecution. The move was widely criticized as it opened the door for negligence and gave a license for the industry to proactively mitigate often-foreseeable avian deaths.
The previous administration wanted to cement Jorjani’s opinion in regulation during the final days of its reign, however, the Biden administration delayed the rule from taking effect last month and opened it back up to public comment.
The Biden administration has been working toward undoing the damage its predecessor has inflicted on the environment, including joining back the Paris Agreement from which Trump had withdrawn the United States.