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Know the West

8 states sue Interior for rollbacks on migratory bird protections

States say the birds have economic, cultural and ecological value.



Each year, up to 1 million migratory birds perish in oilfield wastewater pits. Others fly into transmission lines or windmills, get entangled in fishing equipment or hit communications towers. Previously, such deaths were punishable under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which motivated industries to develop bird-friendlier practices. But last year, the Interior Department announced that only intentional killings, such as poaching, are illegal without a permit. Critics now worry that industries no longer have an incentive to protect birds (“Interior cancels decades-old protections for migratory birds,” HCN, 1/26/18). 



In September, eight states, including California, Oregon and New Mexico, sued the Interior Department. They cited the many benefits states gain from migratory birds, including the millions of dollars each year that birdwatchers and bird-hunting licenses bring to their economies, as well as birds’ cultural and ecological value. They also note that because the federal government is no longer collecting information about bird deaths, officials are deprived of essential information for managing migratory bird populations.

Maya L. Kapoor is an associate editor at High Country News. Email her at [email protected]