Senators Ask Interior to Change Course on Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Letter Calls for Continued Enforcement of Bedrock Conservation Law

Contact: Jennifer Howard, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., April 4, 2018) Ten U.S. Senators sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today, calling on him to keep enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), America's most important bird conservation law. In late 2017, the Department of the Interior's Solicitor General released an opinion saying the MBTA no longer protects against incidental bird deaths, effectively giving a blank check to industry to avoid mitigating bird deaths.

Dunlin migrating. Photo by Mike Parr

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this opinion and to cease any corresponding efforts to change agency rules or guidance under the MBTA,” the Senators wrote in their letter to Sec. Zinke. “Instead, we ask that you continue to enforce this foundational bird conservation law as every administration from across the political spectrum has done for more than forty years.”

American Bird Conservancy supports the Senators' joint call to protect the MBTA, and recognizes their commitment to protecting America's birds. The signers of the letter include all Democratic members of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. “We thank Senators Booker, Cardin, Carper, Duckworth, Gillibrand, Markey, Merkley, Sanders, Van Hollen, and Whitehouse for their leadership to conserve migratory birds,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy at American Bird Conservancy.

“Because of the MBTA, we are seeing steady progress toward reducing sources of bird mortality,” Holmer added. “We need to uphold the law's ability to protect birds at risk from industrial developments.” ABC and a coalition of more than 500 conservation groups have called on Congress to defend the Act.

In their letter, the Senators call attention to the hundred-year history of the MBTA and why it remains essential. “For the 1,000 species of birds protected by the MBTA, the menace of market hunting and the plume trade have since disappeared, but the threats to birds have not,” they write. “The rapid industrialization of the country in the 20th century created new threats, as millions of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds began to die tragic deaths after being trapped in oil pits, electrocuted on power lines, and more.”

In January, a bipartisan group of 17 former high-ranking Interior officials also wrote to Sec. Zinke expressing their concerns about the agency's new policy on the MBTA.


American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving 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.