Sadly, AB2627, the bill to protect migratory birds in California will not pass the legislature this year. California Audubon and the bill’s sponsor, Assembly member Ash Kalra (San Jose), are shifting their focus from the legislature to discussions with the Governor’s office, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and concerned stakeholders to develop and implement policies that protect migratory birds.
Protection for birds (and indeed for all wildlife) became necessary after President Trump took office in 2017 and reversed the role of federal environmental agencies from one that promoted the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources to one the promotes resource exploitation and depletion. Under the direction of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the federal government has abandoned its responsibility under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect migratory birds from destructive actions by private land users.
Zinke’s staff has issued a legal opinion that says the law no longer applies to the killing of birds unless it was done with deliberate intent. The Interior Department is now telling fossil fuel companies and other land users that they no longer have any exposure to liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This opinion contradicts the practice of every previous Secretary of the Interior, whether Democrat or Republican, since the Act was passed in 1918, and the consequences for migratory birds will likely be severe.