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Lowenthal introduces Audubon-backed bill to address incidental take of migratory birds

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In an effort to strengthen the 100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a bipartisan of group co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), introduced H.R. 5552, the Migratory Bird Protection Act today. The new bill will reaffirm current law while creating more certainty for business and creating incentives for innovation to protect birds.

This bill would reverse the course taken by the current Administration to eliminate liability for incidental take of bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That policy, embodied in the "Jorjani M-Opinion" is currently being litigated in federal court. The Administration also plans to issue a formal regulation but to date (8 January 2020) no such regulation has been proposed.

This bill will require industry to take proactive measures to reduce bird deaths. It also directs the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop a permitting process for “incidental take” through which relevant businesses would implement best management practices and document compliance, further driving innovation in how to best prevent bird deaths.

The legislation would also establish a new fee paid by industry that will increase funding for the conservation of birds impacted by these industrial hazards and an additional fund to establish a new federal research program that will study industry impacts on birds and best management practices.

OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO ORNITHOLOGISTS: The proposed legislation includes a provision that requires the USFWS to establish a research program:

‘‘(s) RESEARCH PROGRAM.—The Secretary shall establish and maintain, in consultation with research institutions, institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a))), wildlife conservation groups, and representatives of commercial activities regulated under this section, a research program to—

‘‘(1) evaluate the effectiveness of best management practices and technologies incorporated in regulations and permits under this section;

‘‘(2) develop and evaluate new or improved best management practices and technologies; and
'‘(3) evaluate the impacts of commercial activities regulated under this section on bird populations.

Administration of the research program would be funded by permit fees paid for incidental take permits but there is no provision for actually funding the research.




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