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Throughout the last three and a half years, the Trump administration has rolled back fundamental protections for human health and the environment. Most of these rollbacks defy common sense – none more so than gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a law that has protected birds across North America since it was adopted in 1918.

North America was once home to vast numbers of birds and other wildlife. One example was the passenger pigeon which numbered in the billions. Unregulated market hunting drove them to extinction, and caused alarming declines in swans, geese, ducks, egrets, herons and raptors. To reverse the death spiral of many bird species, early conservationists, hunters and the U.S. government collaborated on a treaty between Canada and Mexico called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The treaty has protected birds migrating from wintering grounds to their breeding grounds for the last 102 years.

Today, the main threats to birds come from large-scale industrial activities such as oil and gas drilling, electrical transmission and wind turbines. Under the MBTA, these industries are required to conduct their activities to minimize bird deaths (called “incidental take”) by using “best practices.”

Most industries take this responsibility seriously. For example, in Montana, all 26 power utilities came together and developed a comprehensive Avian Protection Plan. Actions under this plan have saved hundreds of thousands of birds: Power lines have been retrofitted so that perching birds won’t be electrocuted; reflective twirlers have been installed to reduce collisions with swans, ducks and geese; hundreds of nesting platforms have been built for ospreys as safer nesting sites than nearby power poles. Wind farms have been located away from high densities of nesting hawks and eagles. One mining company is operating a sophisticated network of observers, drones and remote-controlled boats to stop snow geese and other water birds from landing on the toxic waters in Berkeley Pit.

Despite saving the lives of billions of birds, the MBTA is threatened. The Trump administration is in the final stages of eliminating the requirements that industries use “best practices” to limit “incidental take.” The administration claims that companies that violate the MBTA have been recklessly prosecuted and fined. In fact, companies have been rarely taken to court, and when they have, their violations have been overwhelming. Over 97% of all fines collected under the MBTA have come from just two massive oil spills: the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, and the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The average fine for the other 405 oil industry violations has been about $6,500.

Now is no time to weaken the enormously successful MBTA. Even with its protections in place, birds are declining across North America. As reported in the journal Science, bird numbers have declined about 30% in the past 50 years — a loss of three billion birds. While some of the causes of these declines – climate change and habitat destruction – are outside the protections of the MBTA, the Trump rollbacks will likely result in additional bird deaths, additional Endangered Species Act listings, and additional costs to state wildlife agencies. A letter from 17 former Department of the Interior officials, who have worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has urged the Trump administration to reconsider.

Join them by letting your elected officials know you oppose this shameful rollback of the MBTA. You can submit a public comment to the Fish and Wildlife Service until July 20, and you can ask U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte to support H.R. 5552, which would recover protections and ensure that the MBTA remains a crown jewel of conservation legislation.

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Erick Greene is a professor of wildlife biology and director of the University of Montana’s Bird Ecology Lab.