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ENVIRONMENT

Trump Overruled On Changed Bird Protection Enforcement

American White Pelican flying in Dallas, USA. Date: 8 November 2010, 10:05:11 Source: originally posted to Flickr as American White Pelican Author: Manjith Kainickara

“This is a huge victory for birds and it comes at a critical time, science tells us that we’ve lost 3 billion birds in less than a human lifetime and that two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change.”

Summoning Harper Lee

Alongside numerous environmental and ecological protections the Trump administration has tried to upend, its reinterpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act was is one of the oldest. A New York district judge overruled it on changed bird protection enforcement on Tuesday.

Critically, the White House adjusted its take on the law, declaring that companies that kill birds are off the hook if they can prove they did not do so intentionally, The Washington Post reported. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni disagreed, however.

“There is nothing in the text of the MBTA that suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, activity must be directed specifically at birds,” Caproni wrote in her 31-page ruling. “Nor does the statute prohibit only intentionally killing migratory birds. And it certainly does not say that only ‘some’ kills are prohibited.”

For added measure, she referenced Harper Lee’s classic book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime,” Caproni wrote. “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.”

What Does ‘Taking’ Mean?

Caproni’s ruling which overruled Trump on changed bird protection enforcement was based on “takings” and “killings,” which the Department of the Interior redefined under Trump. In the 1970s, the department policy considered any taking, whether accidental or intentional, to be in violation of the migratory bird act, Reuters reported.

The administration of President Barack Obama further cemented the definition in a memorandum before Trump officials set about to change it.

Daniel Jorjani, lawyer for the Interior Department, issued a memo declaring that “taking” had been abused to prosecuted businesses instead of illegal hunting.

Caproni called the department’s new stance “unpersuasive.” However, it defended the new policy despite the ruling. 

Pssst, while you're here...

“Today’s opinion undermines a common sense interpretation of the law and runs contrary to recent efforts, shared across the political spectrum, to decriminalize unintentional conduct,” said Interior Department spokesman Conner Swanson.

Environmental Victory

The lawsuit was brought by eight state attorney generals, the National Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other environmental groups. They celebrated the court ruling Tuesday, hailing it as a victory for avian species.

“This is a huge victory for birds and it comes at a critical time, science tells us that we’ve lost 3 billion birds in less than a human lifetime and that two-thirds of North American birds are at risk of extinction due to climate change,” said Sarah Greenberger, interim chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president and chief executive of Defenders of Wildlife, added that the ruling will help “protect migratory birds from industrial harms” by maintaining the spirit of he 1918 law. 

“The Department of the Interior’s wrong-head reinterpretation would have left the fate of more than 1,000 species of birds in the hands of industry,” Clark said.

A Presidential Concern

Although the Interior Department attempted to undo protections for birds, President Donald Trump has been fond of citing them for a reason to avoid green energy. On Tuesday, he once again returned to his argument that windmills are damaging bird populations, although his skyscraper kills more.

During a Fox News interview about vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D–Cali., Trump segued into talking about windmills and their alleged harm to birds, The Independent reported.

“Wind is nice. It’s nice. But it causes tremendous environmental problems,” Trump said. “Site and home values going way down,” he continued. “If you see a windmill and hear a windmill, your home is worth half or less than half. It kills all the birds.”

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Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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