November 13, 2018

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the Modern Era

Brian Beaton

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) has been a pillar of American conservation law for over 100 years. See 16 U.S.C. §§ 703–12. Originally enacted to end market hunting, the MBTA has proven to be an effective means of protecting bird populations. But over time, the threats to migratory birds have evolved to collisions, drownings, and habitat loss stemming from development. Ambiguity in the MBTA’s language, however, has created uncertainty over its applicability to these new threats, including those resulting from mining, oil and gas, and renewable energy projects on public land. Meanwhile, a recent shift in federal enforcement policy has brought renewed focus regarding the MBTA’s scope and applicability to such projects. 

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