The U.S. Department of the Interior finalized a proposed rule regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which would repeal the Trump administration’s January 2021 rulemaking. House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) issued the following statement in response:

“It’s disappointing but not surprising to see the Biden administration continuing to make decisions that negatively impact rural Americans. All the Trump administration’s MBTA rule did was clarify the federal requirements to protect anyone who accidentally harmed or killed a migrating bird and shift the focus of prosecution to those that intentionally injure or kill migrating birds. Yet somehow even those who inadvertently injure a migratory bird – such as a farmer who comes across a bird while harvesting his crops – must be subject to the full weight of the law. It’s a ridiculous notion and yet this administration is bent on making the federal government as heavy-handed as possible by greatly expanding the intent of the MBTA. I believe we must work together to allow farmers, ranchers and other landowners to continue providing habitat and safety for migratory birds rather than extorting them or threatening to prosecute them for unintended take. I strongly oppose this decision and will keep fighting for the rural communities and jobs that will be most impacted.”

The MBTA was first enacted in 1918 and it prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, trading, selling and transport) of any migratory birds, their nests or eggs without prior authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Under the Trump administration, FWS updated the MBTA regulations to exclude incidental take of migratory birds, effective Feb. 8, 2021. This rule was designed to protect farmers, agriculture and industry workers and other private citizens who accidentally harm a migratory bird while performing daily operations, and was consistent with the Fifth Circuit appellate court decision in United States v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., which held that the MBTA does not prohibit incidental take.

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