An American coot on an oil-covered evaporation pond at an oilfield wastewater disposal facility. An estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 migratory birds die each year in oilfield wastewater pits. Photo: Pedro Ramirez, Jr. / USFWS / CC Flickr

By Elizabeth Shogren
26 January 2018

(High Country News) – The Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks have sparked a lot of outrage. But one recent action by the Interior Department drew unprecedented protest from a bipartisan group of top officials who go all the way back to the Nixon administration: a new legal opinion that attempts to legalize the unintentional killing of most migratory birds.

Under the new interpretation, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act forbids only intentional killing – such as hunting or killing birds to get their feathers – without a permit. The administration will no longer apply the act to industries that inadvertently kill a lot of birds through oil drilling, wind power, and communications towers. Critics fear that these industries might now end the bird-friendly practices that save large numbers of birds.

A letter sent by 17 former wildlife officials on Jan. 10 urges Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to suspend the “ill-conceived” opinion, saying it makes it nearly impossible to enforce a 100-year-old law protecting migratory birds. The former officials’ message is clear: The Trump team’s assault on environmental regulations is not just the normal pendulum swing between Democratic and Republican administrations. Rather, Trump’s rollbacks are attacking fundamental principles of conservation supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations for many decades.

The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to kill birds without permission, though hunters can obtain permits. For decades, the threat of prosecution gave industries that unintentionally kill a lot of birds an incentive to collaborate with the federal government on minimizing bird deaths. For instance, hundreds of thousands of birds die each year from getting poisoned or trapped in the toxic muck of drilling companies’ wastewater pits. To remedy this, oil and gas companies can store the waste in closed tanks or put nets over their pits to limit the number of deaths. […]

Under the Trump administration’s new interpretation, however, companies would no longer be prosecuted for failing to protect birds. The new opinion was written by Interior’s principal deputy solicitor, Daniel Jorjani, a Trump appointee who came to Interior from Freedom Partners, a political organization largely funded by the Koch brothers, fossil-fuel billionaires with an anti-regulatory agenda who are major players in elections around the country. Freedom Partners’ board of directors is made up of Koch executives. [more]

Interior cancels decades-old protections for migratory birds


  1. Anonymous said...

    Good grief. How I've come to truly hate the Orange Orangutan. No disrespect intended for the intelligent species that does not occupy the White House.

    THAT f'n monkey has become.. oops, always has been a national embarrassment. As a t.v. "star" it was a joke to watch this clown act out in his roles as a ignoramus on television, but now, to watch this stupid idiot dismantle this country, embarrass the nation and destroy the last vestiges of our environmental protections and laws - well, it's just too much. I absolutely cannot stand this creep - he's totally unfit for the office he now holds.  


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