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Biden delays Trump’s bird-killing rule

A male Evening Grosbeak. Photo by David Mundy

The Biden administration is hitting pause on the Trump administration’s last-minute final rule that made significant changes to the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the nation’s century-old law that protects migratory birds from destructive actions by industries and individuals.

The Trump rule was set to take effects on Monday, February 8, but today the Biden Interior Department said it “has initiated a number of steps to begin addressing this misguided decision.” Interior will delay the effective date of the rule to determine what next steps may be taken, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency primarily charged with enforcing the MBTA, “will initiate a 20-day public comment period to allow for additional engagement on the MBTA rule. Further opportunities to engage are also anticipated.”

A public comment period is open until March 1. You can submit comments online and via the mail. 

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations,” says Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz.” The Trump administration sought to overturn decades of bipartisan and international precedent in order to protect corporate polluters. At President Biden’s direction, Interior is delaying and reviewing the Trump administration’s rollback of the MBTA to ensure continued progress toward common sense standards that protect wildlife and their habitats.”  

Trump’s changes to the MBTA first occurred in December 2017. They removed penalties for corporate activities including oil spills, electrocutions of birds on uninsulated power lines, development, and other activities that kill millions of birds every year.

Conservation groups and several states sued, and in August 2020, a federal court overturned Trump’s gutting of the MBTA. “It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime,” wrote Judge Valerie Caproni. “That has been the letter of the law for the past century. But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”

Conservationists cheered the ruling, but in early January, with just two weeks left in office, the administration defied the court order in its final rollback of the law.

With today’s move, the Biden administration has signaled that it will not turn its back on America’s birds.  

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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