Biden delays Trump rule that weakened wild bird protections

February 11, 2021

A rule that would have greatly weakened the government’s power to enforce a century-old law protecting birds has been delayed by the Biden administration.

The rule, which was finalized by former President Donald Trump during his last days in office, was set to go into effect Feb. 8.

Interior Department officials recently said it will be reviewed and opened back up to a 20-day public comment period.

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations," said Melissa Schwartz, who serves as an Interior Department spokesperson. “The Trump administration sought to overturn decades of bipartisan and international precedent in order to protect corporate polluters.”

A federal judge in August had blocked the Trump administration's prior attempt to change how the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was enforced. The Trump administration remained adamant that the law had been used inappropriately for decades to punish companies that kill birds accidentally.

More than 1,000 species are covered under the migratory bird law, and the move to weaken enforcement standards drew an adverse reaction from organizations that advocate on behalf of U.S. birdwatchers.

Former federal officials and some scientists had said billions more birds could have died in coming decades under Trump's new rule. Advocacy groups had lobbied the Biden transition team to block it.

“All indications are the birds need more protections and that the public strongly supports protections and loves birds,” said Steve Holmer, who is a representative of the American Bird Conservancy. “There has been great progress in finding solutions to bird mortality, and we're hopeful the administration will create a process to start implementing those solutions."

Many companies have sought to reduce bird deaths in recent decades by working with wildlife officials, but the reason to participate drops without the threat of criminal liability.

The 1918 migratory bird law was enforced after many U.S. bird populations had been destroyed by hunting and poaching.

Biden delays Trump rule that weakened wild bird protections