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Change in Migratory Bird Treaty Act up for public review



One of the most popular activities on Sanibel and Captiva is bird watching. The Southwest Florida region is an important place for a variety of migratory birds. Sanibel plays a key role because the protection of land, water and wildlife is prioritized by residents, city leaders and conservation organizations.

One of the most important laws protecting the birds is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act established in 1918. The law prohibits the “taking of” — hunting, killing, capturing, selling or injuring — migratory birds without a permit.

The current federal administration is making a second attempt to exclude accidental or incidental deaths from the rule, though a first attempt was struck down as illegal in federal court. The rule change is open for a 30-day public review period, ending on Dec. 28. It appears the administration is rushing to get the change finalized before the end of the current term. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/regulations/mbta.

Millions of birds are killed annually by human activities. If the proposed rule change goes through, utility companies including electric, oil, and gas will benefit as a large number of birds are killed incidentally as a result of their operations.

Other significant causes of death of migratory birds are collisions with vehicles and glass buildings or windows, and predation by outdoor cats. The importance of the MBTA is highlighted by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. The event resulted in the death of nearly 1 million birds.

Without the MBTA, BP would not have been held responsible for the deaths, as it was not an intentional result of the course of its operations. Because of the MBTA, BP paid $100 million to fund wetland restoration as part of the settlement.

“It can seem daunting that there are so many threats out there affecting birds, but there are actions we can all take in our daily lives that can help protect them,” Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht said. “Together we can try to minimize our negative impacts on our feathered friends.”

Some simple tips for being a good neighbor include:

– Keep cats indoors.

– Do not use harmful pesticides.

– Plant native species.

– Minimize use of single-use/disposable plastics.

– Be a respectful bird observer; never approach birds too closely, chase or harass birds.