Intent Not Result—Drives US Migratory Bird Treaty Act Interpretation

Part I (March 2018)

On December 22, 2017, the US Department of the Interior released a new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which does not prohibit incidental take. In addition, the US House of Representatives introduced a bill in November (HR 4239) which similarly removes protections from animals affected by the energy industry (oil spills, turbine issues, etc).

Read more about both initiatives courtesy of the American Bird Conservancy and learn about actions you can take.

Listen to Bye, Bye, Birdies? a 35 min podcast where several experts discuss the MBTA and the changes.

Part II (May 2018)

US rehabilitators may recall the recent reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) that we reported on this Winter. It is no longer the result of an activity, but instead its intent that matters in regards to the MBTA. Stated plainly if birds, eggs, or nests are destroyed by an activity, but the purpose of that activity was not to destroy the birds, eggs, or nests, then the MBTA does not apply.

Wildlife rehabilitators in the US should be aware of this change when speaking to the public about legal interactions with wildlife. Unfortunately, the presence of a nesting bird no longer means it is against the law to take down a building. We can still counsel the public on best practices, and encourage them to act in the animal's interest, but we cannot say the action is illegal if the purpose is not to kill the bird(s). To help wildlife professionals navigate this new interpretation the USFWS has kindly issued a 7-page memorandum.

Additional communications are expected this summer regarding wildlife rehabilitation specific guidance.

In the meantime, IWRC is interested in hearing how this interpretation is affecting the day to day work of US rehabilitators.