NEW YORK – A U.S. judge in New York has not validated changes to the Trump administration’s rule that rejected a hundred-year law that protects most American wild bird species despite warning that billions of birds could die as a result.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni ruled on Tuesday, criticizing the administration’s argument that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act only applies to intentional killing of birds and not “accidental” killing from industrial activities.
“It’s not just a crime to kill a satirist, it̵7;s also a crime,” Caproni wrote in his decision, citing Harper Lee as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “That has been the letter of the law for the last century.”
Caproni, who was appointed to President Obama’s Southern District of New York in 2012, disagrees with the Trump administration’s interpretation of the law.
“There is nothing in the text of the (Migratory Bird Treaty Act) which suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, the activity should be directed specifically to birds,” he wrote. “The law also does not prohibit the intentional killing of migratory birds. And it certainly does not say that ‘some’ killing is prohibited.”
More than 1,000 species are covered under the law, and the changes have drawn a sharp backlash from organizations advocating for an estimated 46 million U.S. birdwatchers.
“The Trump administration’s policy is nothing more than a cruel, bird-killing gift to polluters and we wish it had been vacated,” said Noah Greenwald, an endangered species at the Center for Biological Diversity, which which is one of the plaintiffs.
The 1918 immigrant bird law came after much of the U.S. bird population was abolished by hunting and poaching – mostly feathers for women’s hats.
It was one of the main constitutional laws of the federal government, enacted after the protection movement incorporated by President Teddy Roosevelt emerged as a new political force in America.
Over the past half century, as new threats to birds have emerged, the law has also been applied against companies that have not failed to prevent unpredictable bird deaths, such as oil companies that do not place netting on toxic waste pits despite warnings from federal officials.
The Trump administration has argued the deaths of birds flying in oil pits, mining sites, telecommunication towers, wind turbines and other hazards should be considered as accidents and not subject to prosecution.
The Department of the Interior said in a statement that Caproni’s decision “undermines a common sense of interpretation of the law and runs against recent efforts, shared across the political spectrum, to criminalize unintentional -behavior. “
A decision by the Interior Ministry in 2017 effectively ended criminal execution under the act during the Trump presidency. Eight New York-led states and several precautionary groups including the National Audubon Society challenged that decision in federal court.
They argued that the birds were affected by administrative policies, particularly the destruction of the last fall of 25,000 shorebird nests in Virginia to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials have completed bird conservation measures after federal officials advised that the measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law.
The high-profile case implemented under the migratory bird act resulted in a $ 100 million BP settlement, after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil crash killed 100,000 birds.
Industry resources kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, from an average of 7.2 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a recent study.