Energy & Environment — Sponsored By: Panasonic

Democratic senators press Interior official over proposed changes to migratory bird protections

Greg Nash

Democratic senators pressed top Interior Department official Rob Wallace during a Wednesday Senate hearing on the Trump administration’s easing of a law protecting migratory birds. 

Wallace, the assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, was questioned about migratory birds by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. 

The administration’s proposal would apply penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) only to causing intentional harm to birds but not accidental harm. 

Van Hollen asked whether the new interpretation of the law would have prevented the U.S. from getting damages from BP for the deaths of birds after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

“How does it further the mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service to take away the ability to fine a company like BP when its disasters kill mass birds?” he said. 

“It was the concern about that strict liability, that criminal statute is the only option [for] enforcement that that act provides,” Wallace replied. 

Gillibrand asked Wallace what the service is doing to improve protections for migratory birds “and address the existential threat they face due to the impacts of climate change.”

Wallace pointed to best practices working groups that he said work with industries to minimize their impacts on migratory birds. 

Carper questioned Wallace about how the administration reconciles the changes to the MBTA with the administration’s commitment to expand opportunities for sports hunters who hunt such birds. 

“We’re not going away from this debate. We just could not criminalize such a broad activity,” Wallace replied. 

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) appeared to support the proposed change, raising concerns about how long it took to complete infrastructure projects due to compliance with past rules. 

“Hopefully that’s going to be changed,” he said.

Tags Chris Van Hollen Jim Inhofe Kirsten Gillibrand migratory birds Tom Carper

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more