Hundreds of birds fly over Port Susan Bay in Washington State during sunset.
Weakened protections New Trump Admin rules threaten bird populations. © Bridget Besaw


Trump Administration Clips Migratory Bird Protections

Weakens rules preventing incidental bird deaths

The Trump administration today finalized its rollback of key protections against the unintentional killing of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The rule codifies a controversial legal opinion the Department of the Interior issued in 2017 declaring the act does not prohibit unintentional killing of birds. A federal court has already determined that opinion to be arbitrary and capricious.

Under the new rule, companies will have substantially weakened incentive to use best management practices to avoid activities that are deadly to migratory birds and will not face legal consequences for unintentionally killing the birds. Those best practices include requiring oil producers to put nets over crude oil waste pits to prevent birds from landing in them, as well as better siting and operation of wind turbines.

The following is a statement by Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy:

“For more than a century, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has substantially reduced losses of multiple bird species, but today's decision puts those species’ futures in doubt. Over the long and successful history of the act, both Republican and Democratic administrations have applied the act to prohibit, without a permit, both intentional and unintentional killing of covered species. These commonsense protections, reversed today, catalyzed practical steps to curb actions known to be deadly to birds. The new rule is a change without merit and without reason and threatens bird species throughout North America.  

We look forward to working with the Biden administration to quickly reverse this rule change and restore the strength of this bipartisan, bedrock environmental law.

Lynn Scarlett Chief External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy

“To finalize this rule just weeks before the end of the administration when the legal underpinnings of the rule have already been invalidated in the courtroom demonstrates the goal all along: to let those whose actions kill these birds off the hook. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to quickly reverse this rule change and restore the strength of this bipartisan, bedrock environmental law.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.