Cheney Aims To Loosen Migratory Bird Laws

Nov 13, 2017

Schneider says Wyoming's state bird, the Western meadowlark, is one of the species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It's habitat often overlaps oil and gas development.
Credit Mark R. / Flickr

U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has sponsored an amendment that would weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 on the eve of its 100-year anniversary.

National Audubon Society Policy Advisor Erik Schneider said the Act shouldn’t be changed because for 100 years, it has protected North American birds effectively. It was adopted in the early 1900s when bird plumes were fashionable on lady's hats and clothing.

Schneider also said the amendment gives an advantage to the energy industry.

“Right now, no one is allowed to kill a bird without a valid permit by any means or any manner,” he said. “And that includes through deaths that are incidental to industrial activities. So that could include oil waste pits, it could include collisions or electrocutions from transmission lines, as well as oil spills.”

Schneider said weakening protections is worrisome since, a third of the nearly 1,000 North American bird species are declining.

“So if you’re taking away some of these protections for birds now, that might end up requiring greater sort of emergency-room type of measures that would be required under the Endangered Species Act," he said. "So this helps provide proactive conservation before bird populations fall too far to recover.”

In her newsletter, Cheney said the amendment, "clarifies the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to ensure oil and gas operators, wind operators, home-builders, and folks performing every-day activities are not held criminally liable for the accidental take of a bird.

Schneider said the amendment has passed the House Natural Resources Committee and is now wrapped in a larger energy bill that has a good chance of passing the House.