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Reader: Protect the birds 

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it unlawful to kill, sell or possess most native species of birds or their nests, eggs and feathers without a permit. This legislation is credited with saving millions of birds from extinction. Species selected for protection are based on similar treaties with Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Japan and Russia.

In December, the Trump administration released a legal opinion that the incidental take of birds is NOT prohibited under the law and will not be enforced. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, has added language to H.R. 4239 to amend the MBTA so it will no longer cover incidental take. Lethal bird encounters with industrial practices such as oil waste pits, power lines and gas flares are examples of incidental take. Currently oil and electric utility sectors work with conservation groups and wildlife agencies to limit incidental take. These protective measures are effective and cost-efficient.

This change would end decades of authority by the Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce protection for birds and hold energy industries accountable. The MBTA was an important tool used in the legal process to recover natural resource damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The fines recovered were used to restore wetland habitat. Ending this protection would affect 950 species of bird that aren’t protected under the Endangered Species Act or the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. These include backyard birds such as chickadees and juncos as well as hawks. It is easy to take the presence of these birds for granted but please realize we do so because of these important protections.

Please call or write Senators Gardner and Bennet and your representative and tell them to oppose legislation that would weaken the MBTA’s ability to keep birds safe.

— Andrea Storrs, Divide

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