NEW YORK – A U.S. judge in New York has overturned changes to rules imposed by the Trump administration that escalated a centuries-old law that protects most American wild bird species, despite warnings that billions of birds could die as a result.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni on Tuesday criticized the administration’s argument that the Birds Migration Treaty Act only applied to the deliberate killing of birds and not “accidental” killing by industrial activities.
“It is not only a sin to kill a mockery, but it is also a crime,”; Caproni wrote in her ruling, quoting Harper Lee’s “Killing a mockery.” “” This has been the letter of the law for the last century. “
Caproni, who was appointed to New York Southern District by President Obama in 2012, disagreed with the Trump administration’s interpretation of the law.
“There is nothing in the text of the Law (Bird Migration Treaty Act) that suggests that in order to fall under its prohibition, the activity should be directed specifically at birds,” she wrote. “Even the statute does not only prohibit the deliberate killing of migratory birds. “And it certainly does not mean that only ‘some’ killings are prohibited.”
More than 1,000 species are included in the law, and the changes have drawn a sharp response from advocacy organizations on behalf of some 46 million U.S. birds.
“The Trump administration’s policy was nothing more than a cruel gift, to kill birds for polluters, and we want it released,” said Noah Greenwald, director of the Endangered Species Center at the Center for Biological Diversity. was one of the plaintiffs.
The 1918 Bird Migration Act came after many bird populations in the U.S. were degenerated by hunting and poaching – most of it for feathers on women’s hats.
It was one of the first major federal environmental laws in the country, enacted shortly after the Conservative movement embodied by President Teddy Roosevelt had emerged as a new force in American politics.
Over the past half-century, as new threats to birds emerged, the law was also enforced against companies that failed to prevent the predictable death of birds, such as oil companies that did not lay netting on toxic waste pits, despite warnings from officials federal.
The Trump administration argued that the death of birds flying in oil pits, mining sites, telecommunication towers, wind turbines and other hazards should be treated as accidents and not subject to prosecution.
The Department of the Interior said in a statement that Caproni’s decision “undermines an interpretation of the common sense of the law and runs counter to recent efforts, divided across the political spectrum, to decriminalize unintentional conduct.”
An in-house legal ruling in 2017 had already effectively completed criminal enforcement under the act during the Trump presidency. Eight states led by New York and numerous conservation groups including the National Audubon Association challenged that decision in federal court.
They argued that the birds were already being harmed by administration policies, particularly in the demolition of nest bases for 25,000 coasters in Virginia last fall to make way for a road and tunnel project. State officials had completed conservation measures for the birds after federal officials advised that such measures were voluntary under the new interpretation of the law.
The high-profile execution case purchased under the Poultry Migration Act resulted in a $ 100 million settlement by BP, after an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 killed about 100,000 birds.
Industry sources kill about 450 million to 1.1 billion birds a year, out of a total of 7.2 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies.