The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of the most influential pieces of legislation passed to help protect migratory bird species in the United States. It has existed for over 100 years, and has been used to protect birds from, among other things, wildlife trafficking, poaching, and death. This means that if an individual or corporation were to kill a number of migratory birds, even if they claimed that it was an accident, they might be subject to fines. This is what happened when BP paid around 100 million dollars for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Unfortunately, this necessary piece of legislation is under threat. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed new rollbacks that would make it more difficult to prosecute and fine groups and individuals for “accidental deaths”. Essentially, people will be able to violate this treaty, as long as they claim their violation was an accident. The group most excited about this regulatory rollback is the Oil Industry, which has a difficult relationship with migratory birds. The Oil Industry has pushed for access to drilling on many public lands used by migratory birds, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a massive breeding ground used by many bird species. The Oil industry has also violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the past, notably during the Deepwater Horizon Spill but also when Exxon-Mobil was forced to pay 600,000 dollars for killing around 85 birds across 5 states over the course of 5 years by exposing them to hydrocarbons in water and oil pits. The most annoying thing about the rollback is that the MBTA has already been heavily weakened and abused by the current administration, despite its importance. The law was enacted because several incredibly common North American Species went extinct, and now it seems that the Trump administration is willing to repeat the past just to satisfy the interest of a dying industry.

A Purple Gallinule, one of the hundreds of species protected by the MBTA