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Biden administration freezes MBTA rule; reopens comment period

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The Department of the Interior announced yesterday that it would freeze implementation of the controversial Trump-era rule that changed the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to no longer apply to incidental take. That rule was set to go into effect on Feb. 8. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period for an additional 20 days. Comments will be accepted until March 1 and can be submitted online or in hard copy (mailing address available here). 

The final rule is also the subject of litigation, after a court in August struck down the internal Interior memo on which the new rule is based. The Trump administration had indicated its intent to appeal that case; last week, the Biden administration asked for more time to consider whether to withdraw.  In addition, environmental groups filed suit in two different cases last month asking the federal court to strike down the new rule. 

Reversal of the rule by the Biden administration would not be entirely surprising; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who has been nominated for Secretary of the Interior, co-sponsored a bill during the last Congress to reverse the Trump administration's reinterpretation of the MBTA.

The federal register notice (published Feb. 9) is available here

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