Migratory Birds to Regain Federal Protections, but to Reverse Declines, More Action Needed

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations| jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, along with hundreds of other declining bird species, stands to benefit from restoration of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act's protections. Photo by Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., September 29, 2021) Today, the Biden Administration announced that it plans to reverse a harmful rule change that undermined the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), as well as undertake a new initiative to reduce accidental but preventable bird deaths.

“We are encouraged that protections for migratory birds are on track to be restored, and where possible advanced, using techniques we know can reduce bird mortality,” says Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “Our thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for proposing this rule and for providing leadership to conserve millions of migratory birds each year.”

The last Administration had issued a significant rollback of the MBTA, overturning decades of bipartisan precedent at a time when our bird populations are in peril. (Recent research revealed that North America's bird populations have declined by 3 billion birds since 1970.) The rollback removed the incentive to avoid and minimize harm to birds from industrial hazards, and limited accountability and recovery after incidents such as oil spills.

“To respond to the loss of 3 billion birds, we must restore federal protections and go even further to strengthen protections for migratory birds,” says Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for ABC. “This proposed rulemaking will ultimately protect birds by utilizing best management practices such as installing screens that prevent birds from falling into oil pits and turning off tower lights to reduce collisions.”

The rule weakening the MBTA had faced widespread opposition from more than 25 states, 30 tribes, treaty partner Canada, and hundreds of thousands of people, while a federal court vacated the legal opinion underpinning this rule.

“We urge the Biden Administration to go even further to bring back bird populations,” says Holmer. “A permitting program would advance bird conservation efforts and increase regulatory certainty, and can also be effectively implemented.

“Beyond this, we urge passage of the Migratory Bird Protection Act (MBPA) to help safeguard the MBTA and its necessary and longstanding protections for the future. The MBPA supports a common-sense permitting framework that will advance best management practices, benefiting birds while expanding certainty under the law.”


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).