The US government has restored protections for migratory birds, reviving an old environmental law that prohibits hunting, killing, capturing, selling, or otherwise hurting these avian species.
A rule from the previous administration rolled back protections for migratory birds, relaxing legal penalties for energy companies, construction firms, and land developers which killed birds in their operations. The newly-restored 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act once again holds private industry responsible for their environmental impact.
The government is expected to follow up the law with additional provisions to ensure companies take precautions to avoid migratory bird deaths. “But this moment, as sobering as it is, can serve as a wake-up call. Our children and grandchildren will not know the Earth as we do unless we change the status quo,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, speaking at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge last week.
Although wind turbines pose a threat to migratory birds as well, 90 percent of cases prosecuted under the law before it was repealed, involved oil and gas companies. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, which killed a massive number of seabirds, were major targets of the law.
The restoration of the law has been praised by the National Audubon Society as well as the American Clean Power Association, which noted that wind and solar energy companies continued to prioritize bird conservation, regardless of legal responsibility.