Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495,
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 519-8449,
Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0269,

Press Release

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Gutting of Federal Protection for Migratory Birds


National environmental groups filed a lawsuit today in the Southern District of New York challenging the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which eliminated longstanding, vital protections for more than 1,000 species of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds.

Under the Trump administration’s revised interpretation, the Act’s protections will apply only to activities that are specifically intended to kill birds. So-called “incidental” take, regardless of its impact on bird populations or how foreseeable that impact is—such as letting birds drown in uncovered oil pits—is rendered immune from enforcement under the law.

“Trump’s tenure has been a reign of terror for the environment, and his cruel insistence on destroying this century-old law is a testament to his total disregard for wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The revised rule is nothing but a gift to oil companies and other polluters, allowing them to kill birds without legal consequence. The courts rightfully stopped this farce once before, and we hope this latest suit again fully restores legal protection to birds that desperately need it.”

Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.

“Trump's rollback of migratory bird protections is an appalling and inexcusable give-away to corporate polluters who don’t want to face any consequences for killing birds,” said Bonnie Rice, Sierra Club’s endangered species representative. “Two-thirds of North America’s birds are imperiled by climate change. More than three billion birds have vanished since 1970. We need more protections, not less, in the face of this massive loss and the current human-caused extinction crisis."

“We are back in the courts to fight the Trump administration’s callous decision to eliminate protections for migratory birds,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Even though a federal court already ruled that the administration’s reinterpretation of the MBTA was illegal, it pushed forward with its rulemaking to cement this destructive policy into law. We are here to overturn this terrible decision once and for all.”


The Trump administration began its assault on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in December 2017 with a legal opinion authored by Daniel Jorjani, the solicitor of the Department of the Interior and a former Koch Industries employee. This opinion has already allowed birds deaths across the country that could have easily been avoided. In May 2018 the Center and allies filed suit in the Southern District of New York to challenge the proposed revision, resulting in a blistering court decision overturning the opinion.

Flouting the court ruling invalidating the basis for the reinterpretation, the Trump administration moved ahead with finalizing the rule on Jan. 4, along with a flurry of other last-minute actions aimed at eviscerating an array of essential environmental laws and regulations.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

Biden Urged to Fire Covid Response Chief Over 'Damning' Failures

"Zients has failed to provide the materials necessary to improve the U.S. response, or the guidance necessary to keep the pandemic under control," argued one critic.

Jake Johnson ·

As Sinema Defends Filibuster, Progressives Say 'Vote Her the Hell Out'

"The filibuster is a meaningless Senate rule. It's a remnant of slavery used to block civil rights for generations."

Jake Johnson ·

Poor People's Campaign Readies 'Massive, Nonviolent' Effort to Save Democracy

"We are not in this for a moment, but for a movement," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. "Our deadline is victory."

Jake Johnson ·

Tsunami Triggered by Huge Volcanic Eruption Hits Tonga

The undersea volcano's eruption also sparked tsunami warnings for Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, and the West Coast of the United States.

Common Dreams staff ·

Sanders Says Manchin and Sinema Are Imperiling US Democracy

"It is a sad day when two members of the Democratic Caucus are prepared to allow the Freedom to Vote Act to fail and undermine the future of American democracy."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo