Attorney General Becerra Applauds Court Decision Rejecting Trump Administration’s Unlawful Reinterpretation of Longstanding Protections for Migratory Birds

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued the following statement in response to a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declaring unlawful and blocking an attempt by the Trump Administration to reinterpret the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to withdraw longstanding protections for migratory birds.

“Migratory birds, including the bald eagle, are not only national symbols of freedom and liberty – they are vital for our country’s ecosystem,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s decision recognizes the critical importance of protecting our precious wildlife and upholding the rule of law. We hope the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn their lesson and renew their commitment to acting in the best interest of the public.” 

Migratory birds are vital to California’s ecosystem, culture, and economy. Millions of migratory birds, including threatened and endangered species, move through California each year as part of the Pacific Flyway, a migratory superhighway that runs from Alaska to South America. Until recently, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have consistently interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to require industry to take preventative measures to reduce and mitigate bird mortality. In December 2017, Department of the Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani issued an opinion purporting to reinterpret the MBTA to no longer protect migratory birds from incidental harm caused by human activities. By narrowing the MBTA to only prohibit the intentional killing or capturing of these birds, Solicitor Jorjani attempted to remove incentives for industries to ensure migratory birds are not harmed by their activities. 

On September 5, 2018, Attorney General Becerra, as part of a multistate coalition, filed a lawsuit challenging the opinion. In addition, Attorney General Becerra together with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a legal advisory affirming that, despite the purported reinterpretation of the MBTA by the Trump Administration, California would continue to enforce robust state-law protections for migratory birds.

A copy of the order can be found here.

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