Trump administration’s proposed rule would be devastating for birds

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Millions of birds migrate to the Chicago area along the shores of Lake Michigan each year, but fewer would manage to cross safely under a new proposal from the Trump administration.

Last week, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the United States Department of the Interior, proposed to remove the Migratory Birds Treaty Act’s prohibition on killing migratory birds by the through unnecessary industrial activities. It’s a terrible move by the Trump administration, and it comes just months after it was announced that North America has lost a quarter of its bird population in the past half-century, or roughly 3 billion. of birds.

According to the administration’s proposal, industries would not be penalized even for predictable and fully preventable deaths of large numbers of birds. Essentially, the penalties would only be triggered when the birds are intentionally killed.

That’s bad news for the roughly 300 species of migratory birds that pass through Illinois, including songbirds, hawks, hawks, gulls, owls, terns, shorebirds and waterfowl that have migrated through Illinois and along the shores of Lake Michigan for eons.

Or, as Nat Miller, Acting Executive Director of Audubon Great Lakes, said, “It’s a bad time to be a bird.”

The Migratory Birds Treaty Act, which has been in existence since 1918 and has long enjoyed bipartisan support, protects birds by fining industries for unnecessary deaths. This has encouraged factories, high-rise towers, and utility companies to do things like put red lights on communication towers.

If the law is watered down, environmentalists warn there will be an immediate impact, especially on how companies go about construction and siting for energy-related facilities. So far, the Migratory Birds Treaty Act has placed the federal government in a strong position to negotiate common sense measures to protect birds, such as ensuring that power lines are visible to birds and that wind turbines are not placed directly in the path of migrating birds.

Without the law, an entrepreneur in a hurry would be free to cut down a tree even if it is home to a colony of nesting herons and their chicks. Under the current state of the law, the entrepreneur can cut down the tree – the purpose of the law is not to thwart development – but must wait for the chicks to mature and fly away.

“This is outrageous,” said Gerald W. Adelmann, president and CEO of the conservation organization Openlands. “Chicago, in the middle of the country, is such a critical flyway.”

A constant stream of scientific reports tells us that our nation and the world must do more, not less, to protect plants and animals. Last year, the United Nations reported that a million plant and animal species are close to extinction due to human activity. A report released last October by the National Audubon Society warned that two-thirds of North America’s birds are threatened by climate change.

Last year, it took a sustained effort from environmentalists and volunteers just to protect a pair of endangered piping plovers that had laid eggs on Montrose beach. Some people thought that a weekend music festival on the beach mattered more. But similar threats to birds occur every day as new developments destroy and displace natural habitat.

Eight states, including Illinois, and several conservation organizations have taken federal court to challenge the Trump administration’s position on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But even so, the administration continues.

Many companies, no doubt, will voluntarily do whatever they can to protect the birds. But if federal oversight is relaxed, other companies will certainly put money and time above all else, and many birds will die as a result.

The proposed changes threaten not only birds that migrate through the Chicago area, said Jordan E. Rutter, public relations director for the American Bird Conservancy, but even “backyard birds that everyone loves.” .

Anyone concerned about the massive loss of birds in the United States over the past half century should make their voice heard during a recently started 45 day comment period. And they should make it clear to the Trump administration that it is simply unacceptable to remove the protections of a century-old law.

While populations of some bird species in the Chicago area have increased in recent years, others have declined.
SOURCE: Bird Conservation Network

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