STATEMENT on Biden administration move to strengthen enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Sep 29, 2021

September 29, 2021

DENVER—The Interior Department is expected to release final regulations to restore enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a foundational wildlife conservation law passed in 1918. For decades, the law has been used to hold companies accountable for killing birds in oil spills and other environmental disasters, most notably after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The Biden administration’s actions today reverse a disastrous legal opinion and rulemaking under the Trump administration that declared the law only applies when companies intentionally kill birds.

In response, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“This common-sense reversal is welcome news for North American bird populations, which have dropped dramatically over the last 50 years. Oil and gas companies must be held accountable when their actions lead to wildlife deaths.

“The world is on the brink of a sixth mass extinction. Enforcing conservation laws like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is vital. Now the Biden administration must move quickly to heed the warnings of scientists and protect 30 percent of America’s land and water by 2030.”

An investigation by the New York Times found that in the wake of changes under the Trump administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service largely stopped investigating bird deaths and discouraged local governments and businesses from taking precautionary steps to protect birds.


  • Trump MBTA policy change all but ended punishment for bird deaths [New York Times]
  • North American bird populations have dropped 29% over the past half century [New York Times]
  • US officials report more than 20 extinctions [New York Times] as Humans speeding extinctions and alter the natural world at an ‘unprecedented’ pace [New York Times]
  • See where birds are migrating in real time, in one map [Vox]

Photo: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge by John Zaker, USFWS