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Carper, environmental groups highlight opposition to Migratory Bird Treaty Act changes

Delaware News Desk
Milford Beacon

Sen. Tom Carper highlighted Feb. 20 the importance of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act following the release of the Donald Trump administration’s proposed rule to weaken the century-old act.

Carper was joined by Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association, and Anne Harper, executive director of the Delaware Nature Society, at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve, a 108-acre protected marsh that is home to many species of birds and wildlife.

Earlier in February, the Trump administration announced a rule that would weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by removing penalties for companies that incidentally kill migratory birds. On Feb. 20, Carper sent a letter along with with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, and Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, and Alan Lowenthal, D-California, requesting the Trump administration extend its 45-day comment period on its new Migratory Bird Treaty Act rule to 90 days.

According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, in Delaware, 243,000 wildlife watchers spent $170 million on equipment and trip-related expenses. Nationally, a 2016 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey found that more than 45 million people watch birds, joining other wildlife watchers in contributing a total of $80 billion to the U.S. economy.

“For over a century, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has protected the hundreds of species of birds that call Delaware home,” said Carper. “It has also protected Delaware’s three billion dollar tourism economy, which relies on these birds and the thousands of tourists they attract each year. As climate change continues to threaten entire species of birds and their habitats, we ought to be thinking of ways we can better protect them. Instead, the Trump administration is putting the interests of industry over the health of our planet and those we share it with.”

“Delaware is a birding state, a place that bird watchers and bird experts live and love to visit. But such beauty, biodiversity and yes, even economic benefits, depend on proactive federal protections which is why we are here today,” said Harper. “Now is not the time to be weakening strategies that protect our bird populations.”

“Weakening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act now after more than a century of success is not only foolish and short-sighted, it is a betrayal of the trust handed down to us by our parents and grandparents, as well as an abdication of our responsibility to our children and our children's children,” said Gordon. “Our birds, wildlife, and wild places are treasures that should be carefully conserved for the benefit of all Americans, not squandered for the short-term profit of a few.”