The Biden White House is proposing to bring back longstanding protections for wild birds that were ended under former President Trump.
The Interior Department announced Thursday that it wants to revoke a rule enacted by the Trump Administration in its final days that critics say undercut the 102-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act by effectively ending criminal enforcement against companies for bird deaths. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland issued a statement saying reinstating the protections of the law was crucial to saving the lives of millions of birds who die each year in collisions with electrical lines and wind turbines, and from other industrial causes.
The Bird Treaty Act governs incidental take, or the accidental killings of birds by people and oil and gas companies that fail to take proper precautions to not harm the animals.
Just days before Trump exited the White House for Mar-a-Lago, The Interior Department finalized the rule that it had been trying to put in place for four years. Nobody benefited more from the Trump Administration’s relaxed regulations, according to a study by the Audubon Society. Oil companies accounted for 90 percent of incidental takes prosecuted under the act, resulting in fines of $6,500 per violation. Two major oil spills, the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster off Alaska in 1989, accounted for 97 percent of the fines, according to the same analysis.
Conservationists hailed the move.
A spokesperson for the Audubon Society wants to see the White House go even further to enact improvements to the act that fortify the environmental protections.
“We hope to see the administration follow quickly with another rulemaking to establish a reasonable permitting approach for incidental take. A permitting program is a common-sense approach to clarifying these long-standing protections and providing the certainty industry wants.”
Interior officials said they will listen to public comments sent through June 7, before making a final decision.