Local bird conservationists weigh in to potential change to century-old bird law

Posted at 2:03 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 20:25:43-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - On a frigid morning, Terri Cuthreill admires many of the birds that flock around Fort Monroe.

"I am looking at a loon right now," says Cuthriell. "Some of the gulls and shorebirds we have here in winter will leave us in spring."

Cuthriell says there are about 100-150 bird species that migrate in and out of the Hampton Roads area.

These migratory birds are in jeopardy, says Cuthriell with the Virginia Society of Ornithology.

"In December of 2017, the Department of the Interior rolled back part of the law that requires incidental take or accidental taking of bird species, and it would be no longer unlawful," she explained.

Former President Trump aimed to change the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to go into effect this week.

"The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a bedrock environmental law that was established over a century ago in 1918, and it provides a foundation for protecting migratory birds from killing due to indiscriminate practices from individuals."

Former President Trump's plan would no longer prosecute companies actions that caused the death of birds - but newly elected President Joe Biden stepped in this week.

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"President Biden has shown his disfavor for this new regulation by delaying the law for a month and now a public engagement period," she said.

Public comment is open for 20 days. In addition, the Commonwealth of Virginia is drafting its own migratory bird protection plan.

"If the law goes into effect, we will see drastic decline in bird species because of polluters and indiscriminate acts on corporations and individuals," Cuthriell added.