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For Immediate Release

Press Release

Biden Administration Reverses Trump Rule That Gutted Migratory Bird Protections


In a critical win for wildlife, today the Biden administration announced it would be reversing a Trump administration rule that gutted protections for more than 1,000 species of migratory birds. In addition, the administration outlined its plans to develop a program that would protect migratory birds from incidental take while providing regulatory certainty for industry.

“The Trump administration’s rule was disastrous when it was enacted and it’s a huge relief to see it buried for good,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We need the full protections of the MBTA at this crucial moment in time when so many bird populations are in peril. It’s a great day for bird lovers everywhere!”

The now-defunct rule attempted to limit Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protections to activities specifically intended to kill birds. Incidental take, such as allowing birds to drown in uncovered oil pits, would have been allowed under the law without repercussions. 

Scientists estimate that bird populations have plummeted by 3 billion since 1970 and many species are threatened by climate change. 

The Trump rule was rushed into place despite a federal judge ruling the interpretation of the MBTA which the Trump administration relied on to make it was illegal. 

In addition to announcing a proposed rulemaking to establish formal policies for regulating incidental take, the Biden administration also announced it would be issuing a Director’s Order providing guidance for assessing when an activity violates the MBTA.

“We now expect the Biden administration to really cement this victory by creating a robust permitting program for incidental take,” said Clark. “We look forward to working with the administration to create a scientifically sound pathway for permitting under the law that will both conserve birds and provide greater certainty and efficient permitting for regulated stakeholders.”

Defenders of Wildlife and our coalition partners are also advocating for the passage of the Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 4833) in Congress to help safeguard the MBTA so that its century worth of successes can continue on unfettered. 


Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America.

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