Bird Habitat Protection
Marin County provides diverse and excellent habitats for birds and other wildlife. Marin County's primary green spaces are located in West Marin, and are managed by a number of county, state, and federal agencies. Birds and people alike flock to Marin County's shores for respite and relaxation. Birds are relatively easy to observe and are indicators of habitat quality. A healthy environment for birds also provides benefits to other wildlife and people. Today, over 1,300 species of birds are threatened globally, and 222 are critically endangered. Birds around the world need our help now more than ever. A 2018 global study shows one in eight bird species is threatened with extinction.
YOUR Action MADE A DIFFERENCE!
Success! Marin County Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to recognize migratory and nesting birds on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
The comments submitted by EAC members and our community made a difference! The supervisors acknowledged the importance of recognizing and protecting nesting and migratory birds during these uncertain times of federal threats. Let's celebrate! May 12th is officially International Migratory Bird Day.
Threats to Migratory and Nesting Birds
In November 2017, the Cheney amendment was added to the SECURE American Energy Act (HR 4239). This amendment is a direct threat to the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The provision would end any enforcement of “incidental take,” which means that industry would no longer be held responsible for bird deaths resulting from activities that would kill or harm birds like deaths from wind turbines and electrical poles for example.
This is unfortunate timing, as nationally, organizations partnered up to recognize the ecological significance of birds and celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the MBTA that is responsible for the protection of millions of migratory birds over the last century. The MBTA protects more than 1,000 native U.S. species of birds, including the bald eagle, America’s national bird, and other bird species that were near extinction before MBTA protections were put in place in 1918. The Year of the Bird (an all-year celebration of all birds around the world) is sponsored by National Geographic, the Cornell Lab of Orinthology, BirdLife International, and Audubon. EAC has officially partnered and promoted the Year of the Bird through our 2018 annual Point Reyes Birding and Nature Festival.
In response to the threats to the MBTA, organizations and individuals are submitting comments and working to ensure the MBTA is not weakened.
Due to the current federal legislative and interpretational threats to the MBTA, it is critical that states, counties, and cities implement stronger local protections for nesting and migratory birds. This will prevent any harm to species if federal protections are reduced.
National Comments & Press re. MBTA Threats:
The Trump administration has officially clipped the wings of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, April 11, 2018 Washington Post Energy and Environment desk.
AB 2627 (2017-18) was introduced in the California Assembly to strengthen statewide bird protections and the MBTA in response to the threats from the current federal administration.
This important bill passed a committee vote on April 24, but unfortunately the bill died in 2018.
November 2018 Update!
On a more positive note, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a legal advisory regarding the federal MBTA and California’s protections for migratory birds. The advisory affirms that despite any reinterpretation of the MBTA by the federal government, California law continues to provide robust protections for birds, including the prohibition on incidental take of migratory birds.
The advisory – and a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Becerra as part of a multistate coalition in September 2018 – follows a decision by the federal government to roll back protections under the MBTA.
In response to concern from our local community members about vegetation management practices of Marin County, its contractors, and PG&E during nesting season, EAC began working to advocate for better bird nesting habitat protections in Marin County in 2016.
On March 16, 2017, EAC, with support from Point Blue Conservation Science (PBCS), and Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), sent a letter to Marin County Supervisors to raise awareness of this issue and requested a new county ordinance to better protect migratory and nesting birds (Read full comment letter).
In September 2017, Supervisor Rodoni's office coordinated a multi-agency meeting to discuss the current agency practices concerning nesting and migratory bird protections (read EAC's Press Release).
Throughout 2017, EAC continued discussions to raise awareness of the importance of protecting nesting and migratory birds and the need for improved best management practices (for some agencies) that would include: 1) adjusting work timing to avoid the nesting season and near sensitive habitats, 2) conducting an advance bird survey by a qualified biologist, 3) comprehensive training for staff and contractors, and 4) public transparency and accountability measures.
In the winter of 2018, EAC and Supervisor Rodoni's office initiated conversations about a resolution that would raise awareness of the importance of protecting nesting and migratory birds.
This resolution places a priority on the significance of migratory and nesting birds in Marin County and states that
"...migratory birds have merited our protection for 100 years, the need for vigilance continues, especially in light of introduced federal legislation and re-interpretations of the MBTA by federal agencies, which alter the previously accepted interpretation of the MBTA and may no longer hold companies accountable for 'accidental or incidental' harming of birds, placing migratory birds in jeopardy."
The resolution also encourages all County agencies and entities to assure that their adopted policies, regulations and operating procedures avoid negative impacts to, and help assure the health of, nesting birds and their habitats.
This is an important first step in working with the County to improve protections for nesting and migratory birds. EAC will continue our work to monitor vegetation management activities to ensure that agencies are prioritizing implementation of Best Management Practices to protect nesting and migratory birds.
Are you an avid admirer of avifauna?