09:01 PM

For Immediate Release

Senators to Zinke: Enforce Migratory Bird Treaty Act

WASHINGTON (April 4, 2018) – Today, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 8 of their colleagues on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke requesting that he reconsider the Department of the Interior’s reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to exclude liability for industries that kill birds. The Senators requested that the Secretary continue to fully enforce this foundational conservation law to protect hundreds of migratory bird species across the country.

Defenders of Wildlife Senior Vice President, Bob Dreher, issued the following statement: 

“Thank you to Senators Tom Carper and Cory Booker for their leadership to uphold the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and its prohibition against the unpermitted take of birds. The United States and other nations have protected migratory birds through international treaties and laws for a hundred years. Now the Trump administration’s actions threaten to undermine the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by exempting industry from liability when their activities unintentionally – but predictably – kill birds. On the centennial of the Act, Congress and the Trump administration should do everything they can to protect migratory birds instead of letting industry off the hook for unmitigated bird deaths.”



  • The MBTA was enacted by Congress 100 years ago this year, and has been read by federal agencies, the Department of Justice and the courts as protecting birds not just from unauthorized hunting, but also from being trapped, poisoned or otherwise killed by industrial operations. Under that interpretation, the Department of the Interior has worked for decades with industries to develop common sense best management practices to avoid and reduce avian mortality from such threats as oil evaporation pits, transmission lines, cell towers, and wind energy facilities.
  • On December 22, 2017, the Solicitor for the Department of the Interior issued a legal memorandum reversing the longstanding interpretation of the MBTA’s application to incidental take of birds, exempting industry from any legal obligations to prevent bird fatalities. The Solicitor’s legal opinion runs counter to the United States’ commitment under international agreements to protect migratory birds.
  • On January 11, 2018, a bipartisan coalition of 17 former Department of the Interior officials who served over the last 40 years sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke condemning the Department’s legal reinterpretation of the MBTA that could unravel the Department’s successful work with industry to reduce foreseeable bird deaths and advance bird conservation.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.