DJ Biden Administration Postpones Lifting Penalties for Accidental Killing of Migratory Birds
WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration said Thursday it will postpone implementing a measure approved in the final days of the Trump administration that would have removed criminal penalties for killing migratory birds, calling the decision misguided.
The measure lifting penalties was set to take effect this coming Monday. The Interior Department said Thursday it would put implementation on hold for at least three weeks while the agency takes public comments.
"The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law critical to protecting migratory birds and restoring declining bird populations," Interior Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said. "The Trump administration sought to overturn decades of bipartisan and international precedent in order to protect corporate polluters."
In seeking to end the criminal penalties, the Trump administration was responding to business groups, farmers and others who said criminal penalties were too harsh for accidental deaths.
Environmentalists argued that the penalties were needed to encourage farmers, power companies and others to take greater precautions to protect birds.
Since 1970, North America has lost more than a quarter of its bird population, nearly 3 billion birds, according to research published in the journal Science in October 2019. The National Audubon Society said it recently recorded six million fewer birds in its 121st annual Christmas Bird Count than the year prior, despite record participation from counters.
Mr. Biden ordered a review of the order lifting penalties on his first day in office, as one of 103 Trump-era environmental rule changes to be reconsidered.
Sarah Greenberger, the Audubon Society's interim chief conservation officer, said the Interior Department's action offers an opportunity to improve protections for birds at a time when they have become more vulnerable. She noted that the Trump administration had gone forward with the rule change even after a federal judge's ruling in August that said its interpretation of the rule is contrary to the law.
"I don't think it ever made sense," she said. "Moving forward in the face of that ruling was a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."
The American Petroleum Institute, an oil-and-gas industry trade group that supported the Trump administration's removal of penalties, said its focus "remains on working with the Biden administration in support of policies that support environmental protection while providing regulatory certainty."
Also Thursday, the Interior Department canceled a public-comment period for oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Cook Inlet, citing the Biden administration's recent order to pause new oil-and-gas leases on federal territory.
Write to Timothy Puko at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 04, 2021 17:26 ET (22:26 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.