Biden administration restores bird protections, repeals Trump rule

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday restored protections for migratory birds that were relaxed under former President Don...


WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday restored protections for migratory birds that were relaxed under former President Donald J. Trump, a move celebrated by environmentalists but which is expected to exacerbate tensions between the administration and the oil industry and gas.

This decision comes as some species of birds are disappearing from the planet. North America has lost almost three billion birds in the past 50 years, say scientists. In addition to suffering from habitat loss and climate change, they are killed by collisions with buildings, power lines and communication towers. They die in oil waste wells and oil spills.

Home Office secretary Deb Haaland said the agency would officially revoke a rule passed in the dying days of the Trump presidency that protected businesses, landowners and others from legal consequences if their activities unintentionally killed people. birds.

This meant that a construction crew who had destroyed a barn with owl nests, or an oil company responsible for a catastrophic spill that killed thousands of birds, could not be punished.

Instead, the Biden administration will revert to a long-standing interpretation of the Migratory Birds Treaty Act of 1918 that prohibits “incidental” damage to birds, Ms. Haaland said. She said restoring federal protections is a critical step because, although some industries have taken voluntary action to protect birds, populations continue to decline.

The losses are part of a growing global biodiversity crisis – driven by habitat loss, climate change and other human activities – that is one million endangered species. Earlier Wednesday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove 22 animals and one plant from the list of endangered species because they have disappeared. One of them, the Bachman’s Warbler, was a migratory songbird that has not been seen since 1988.

“This moment, sobering as it is, can serve as a wake-up call,” Haaland said on a call with reporters. “Our children and grandchildren will not know the Earth like we do, unless we change the status quo.”

But restoring protections lost under former President Trump is not enough, said Erik Schneider, policy officer at the National Audubon Society. He wants the Biden administration to go beyond the new regulation.

“We also need a government-wide effort to dramatically scale up bird conservation efforts if we are to bring back three billion birds and protect birds from climate change,” he said.

Representatives of the oil industry, who have disagreed with the Biden administration on separate issues efforts to reduce the rental of fossil fuels on public lands, denounced the settlement and said the agency singled them out for causing damage. The overwhelming majority of prosecutions under the law have been directed against energy companies.

“This rule takes us back to a time when federal agencies selectively pursued oil and gas companies,” wrote Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies. She declared the new rule “legally vulnerable”.

The Migratory Birds Treaty Act was enacted to protect birds from overhunting and poaching at a time when snowy egret feathers were in such demand for hat adornments that the bird was nearly hunted until at extinction. It makes it illegal “by any means or by any means” to hunt, take, capture or kill birds, nests or eggs of listed species without a permit.

Beginning in the 1970s, federal officials used the law to prosecute and fine companies up to $ 15,000 per bird for accidental deaths on power lines, cell phone towers, wind turbines, or others. industrial risks.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people and spat more than 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of birds were killed and BP agreed to pay $ 100 million for criminal offenses under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.

In 2017, the Trump administration reinterpreted the law, protecting businesses from liability unless they knowingly and intentionally seek to kill birds. A final settlement was released just days before Mr. Trump left office despite a scathing ruling by a federal judge, who overturned the policy in response to a court challenge from eight state attorneys general and a coalition of environmental groups.

The revocation of Mr. Trump’s reign will take effect 60 days from October 4. In addition, the Home Office said it would accept comments on a possible new licensing system so that some companies are not penalized if birds are killed or injured despite reasonable precautions in the course of their operations. .

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden administration restores bird protections, repeals Trump rule
Biden administration restores bird protections, repeals Trump rule
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