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States sue to reverse Trump decision on Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Fern Davies

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today took decisive action against the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw protections for America’s migratory birds. Attorney General Becerra and state attorneys from seven states filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York challenging the Administration’s decision to put corporate interests ahead of protecting the nation’s public interests by rolling back protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The 100-year-old treaty originally codified an agreement between the United States and Canada to help ensure the preservation and protection of migratory birds from both intentional and incidental mortality caused by human activities. Over the years, the MBTA has broadened to include similar agreements with Mexico, Japan, and Russia.

“Birds such as the bald eagle are not only national symbols of freedom and liberty, they are also vital for our country’s ecosystem and survival,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This latest reckless action by the Trump Administration threatens one hundred years of international cooperation to protect precious wildlife and ecosystems. The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are obligated to act in the best interest of the public at large, not corporate interests. The Administration’s utter disregard for the ecosystem it is entrusted to maintain and its incessant crusade to ensure that corporations are not held accountable for their actions is inexcusable. As the Administration fails to fulfill its obligations to the American public, we will continue to hold it accountable.”

The MBTA protects more than 1,000 native U.S. species of birds, including the bald eagle, America’s national bird, and other bird species that were hunted to near extinction before MBTA protections were put in place in 1918. Under longstanding interpretation of the Act by Democratic and Republican administrations alike dating back decades, the MBTA has required utilities and operators of facilities such as wind farms, power lines, and oil waste pits to take preventative measures to reduce and mitigate bird mortality. Under the Administration’s reinterpretation, companies would be exempt from these requirements. Experts estimate that eliminating these requirements would significantly increase migratory bird deaths by tens of millions each year.

Attorney General Becerra joins a lawsuit brought by New York, which, alongside separate suits by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Audubon Society, asserts that the Administration’s revised opinion and planned pullback of MBTA is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and in violation of the law.

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