Every now and again I see a legislative initiative that I believe must have been designed simply to raise my blood pressure. This month provided a great example. In a rider to the bill to fund the operations of the Departments of Commerce and Justice is a provision, now passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, to prohibit the use of any of the appropriated funds in prosecuting or holding liable any corporation or person for a violation of section 2(a) of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). See: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/493/text
Of course, the real purpose of this bill is to let major corporations off the hook for large-scale killings of migrating birds by wind mills, toxic waste ponds, and the windows of tall buildings. Some major corporations have been fined for these activities in recent years, and their deep pockets must underlie the drafting of this legislation.
But, what is next? If it’s ok to kill ducks in toxic waste ponds, why not eliminate hunting seasons, so we can all enjoy them year-round? Or perhaps we will want to promote the French tradition of ortolan—eating songbirds (whole) that have been roasted in cognac—as long as the birds are captured by an otherwise legal activity (spreading glue in trees).
Across the country, birdwatchers, in pursuit of the largest recreational activity in America, should be outraged. The MBTA is one of the best examples of international cooperation with Mexico, Canada and other nations to protect birds that cross our borders. The MBTA heralds from the era of market-gunning of waterfowl, which drove the populations of many ducks to near extinction.
Migratory birds are part of the heritage of America—not simply an annoyance, like houseflies, to the pursuit of corporate profits. When corporations are exempt from laws that enforce their behavior to comply with what is good for all of America, we are in a very sorry state indeed.
Next up? The Clean Air Act.