Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society - Conservation

Serving Benton and Franklin Counties since 1965

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Conservation Updates

Migratory Bird Treaty Act Under Attack

By Dana Ward

The current administration recently proposed to roll back key protections against the unintention-al killing of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The proposed rule would codify a controversial legal opinion issued by the Department of the In-terior in 2017 declaring the act does not prohibit unintentional killing of birds.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been the safeguard against the extinction of nearly 1,000 spe-cies of birds in North America. The administration’s rule would break the current protections un-der the MBTA, replacing it with an ill-conceived approach that throws out years of bipartisan as-surance to balance industrial activity with protections for birds.

Passed by Congress in 1918, the act is one of the United States’ oldest wildlife conservation laws and has a long and successful track record of protecting species such as the Snowy Egret, Wood Duck, Sandhill Crane and Red-tailed Hawk. For more than 5 decades, both major parties’ administrations have applied the act to prohibit, without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both intentional and unintentional killing of covered species. Unintentional killings has driven common-sense standards such as requiring oil and uranium pro-ducers to put nets over liquid waste pits to prevent birds from landing in them, as well as im-proved siting and operation of wind turbines such as will be constructed on Horse Heaven Hills. If these proposed changes are instituted, companies will no longer face legal consequences or have incentive to use best management practices to avoid activities that are deadly to migratory birds.

Bird populations are already facing threats from climate change and subsequent habitat loss. This is not the time to weaken the MBTA protections. This rule change will only lead to more bird killings. LCBAS supported National Audubon by signing on to a recent letter to the administration that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act works – and withdraw its proposed change.

Columbia River Treaty Roundtable Forum — Seeking LCBAS Representative

As you are probably aware, the U.S. and Canada are currently negotiating changes to the 1961 Columbia River Treaty. The original treaty negotiations were about flood risk and hydropower operations. As of 2024, the current flood risk management provisions change to a less-defined approach; 2024 is also the earliest date at which the Treaty can be terminated with 10 yrs written notice from either signatory. The modernized treaty negotiations consider these same two issues but also consider improving the Columbia River ecosystem. LCBAS is looking for somebody in our chapter who might be interested in joining a group called the Columbia River Roundtable. This is a forum of citizens, businesses, and other organizations from the U.S. and Canada who have joined together to stay informed on the negotiations. The group has agreed to a set of common principles related to protecting ecological health and eco-system functions. They have monthly phone calls from 11 -12 PST on the third Thursday of eve-ry month that includes an update from each country and a featured speaker.

If you are interested, you would need to agree to the set of common principles, be available most 3rd Thursday mornings, and be willing to inform the LCBAS board and chapter of developments in the treaty negotiations. In addition to affecting the overall ecosystem health of the Columbia Riv-er system, the treaty renegotiations could impact the Hanford Reach National Monument and could give us additional talking points on the discussion of reconveyance of the shoreline in the bi-county area. If you are interested in joining this Columbia River Roundtable, please contact Debbie Berkowitz at secretary@lcbas.org or 509-375-4740 (leave a voice message) for more information.

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AUDUBON MISSION STATEMENT - To conserve and restore ecosystems, focusing on birds and wildlife, for the benefit of humanity and Earth's biological diversity. Audubon educates adults and children about the environment, advocates responsible public policy and legislation for natural resources, and conducts science-based projects using birds as indicators of health of the natural world.