Biden administration revokes the MBTA Rule

By Carl D. Mitchell

In February 2021, The IUCN-SSC Swan Specialist Group joined other conservation agencies and non-government organisations in writing to the Acting Secretary for the US Department of the Interior, to express concern about the ‘‘MBTA Rule’’, whereby former President Trump’s administration aimed to redefine the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) so that it protected birds only if a business or individual intentionally injures or kills birds protected by the MBTA. We were particularly concerned that the proposed change has the potential to reduce very significantly the effectiveness of the MBTA for conserving migratory birds in North America (noting that Trumpeter Swans recovered from near-extinction following protection under the MBTA), and that it would also affect relationships with treaty partners.

Trumpeter swan by Brian Handrigan

We are now pleased to report that the representations were successful, and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published a final rule revoking the 7th January 2021 regulation. The Service has thus returned to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with long-standing agency practice prior to 2017.

The latest information available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website: