Attorney General Becerra Responds to Trump Administration’s Harmful Rollback of Longstanding Protections for Migratory Birds

Tuesday, January 5, 2021
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued a statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) announcement of a final rule weakening longstanding protections for migratory birds. The final rule purports to limit the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to no longer protect migratory birds from killings incidental to human activities, such as the operation of facilities like wind farms, power lines, and oil waste pits.

“Today’s final rule is a transparent handout to special interests at the expense of our nation’s treasured migratory birds," said Attorney General Becerra. "While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting our precious wildlife and ecosystems, its recent actions have done anything but that. In California, we recognize the critical role of migratory birds in our ecosystems, and we remain committed to their protection against extinction.”

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 now, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have consistently interpreted the MBTA to require industry to take preventative measures to reduce and mitigate bird mortality incidental to their activities. FWS’s final rule purports to exempt industry from these requirements, which experts estimate will increase migratory bird deaths by tens of millions each year.

Attorney General Becerra has been a strong supporter of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and its robust protections for migratory birds. In August of 2020, Attorney General Becerra, as part of a multistate coalition, secured a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that declared unlawful and blocked an attempt by the Trump Administration to reinterpret the MBTA to withdraw longstanding protections for migratory birds. Earlier in the same year, Attorney General Becerra,  joining the same coalition, filed comments opposing FWS’s proposal weakening protections under the MBTA. In addition, the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a legal advisory affirming that, despite any reinterpretation of the MBTA by the Trump Administration, California would continue to enforce robust state-law protections for migratory birds. 

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