Do you have cat, a window, or anything else that might kill a bird? Then you could’ve gotten into some big trouble with the government until recently. That is, until the Trump administration changed everything.
On Dec. 22, the Trump administration eased the interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A memorandum was published by the Interior Department’s Office of the Solicitor which stated that it was interpreting a federal criminal law against “taking” or injuring migratory birds to apply only to “direct and affirmative, purposeful actions.”
In other words, if the injury happened to specific birds on accident, you’re off the hook.
This is a direct departure from previous administrations, though. Other administrations would prosecute individuals regardless of whether the harm was intentional or unintentional. So, if your cat ate a protected bird, you’re toast.
In fact the Fish and Wildlife Service’s top three “human-caused threats to birds” are cats, collisions with building glass, and collisions with vehicles. If any birds were killed on your watch because of these things, you could have faced some serious prosecution.
Take, for instance, this story. Back in 2002, a flock of birds flew into a live military firing range, and well, you can guess what happened. Those birds didn’t survive long.
Because of that, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the members of the military had violated the act, and Congress had to quickly adopt legislation to get the military off the hook.
But it was the Obama administration who loved to prosecute under this act more than any body. I’m sure it had everything to do with appeasing their PETA-like base.
In 2011, one woman was facing time behind bars because her daughter rescued a woodpecker from a cat.
The Fish and Wildlife Service threatened imprisonment, but after a national backlash, they backed down and said the citation had been “processed unintentionally.”
Additionally, in 2012 oil and gas companies came under prosecution because some birds flew into “state-sanctioned pools of fluid and oil.” So, it’s the businesses fault the birds flew into it? But I digress.
A district court eventually dismissed the prosecution because they said you can’t prosecute someone for “legal, commercially useful activity.”
But the Obama administration was able to pick and choose which energy companies they were going to prosecute.
For instance, they we’re willing to go after the before mentioned oil companies, but as The Wall Street Journal points out, they failed to go after wind turbine companies for birds that were killed by propellers.
Luckily, the Trump administration has clarified the act, and for good reason. We can now all breathe a sigh of relief if a rare bird ever runs into our car, courts will now see that as unintentional and you’re off the hook.
H/T The Daily Signal