Legislative Watch

Vashon Audubon’s Conservation Chair, Steve Hunter, keeps tabs on state and federal legislation concerning birds. Here’s the latest:

Federal Legislation

March 11, 2021 — The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been one of our nation’s most important tools for protecting birds and bird habitat for more than 100 years. However, the Department of the Interior under the previous administration produced a legal finding, in preparation for a rule change, that held that the original intent of the act was to cover only “intentional” taking.

Had this been in effect when BP had its tragic well-blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, they would have faced no fines (ultimately $100 million) because they did not intend to kill more than a million birds when they cut corners on safety measures.

National Audubon and other environmental groups sued. Last August, a District Court ruled that the legal finding was meritless. Nevertheless, the Trump administration proceeded with the rule change in January.

Audubon and the others sued again. The Biden administration has delayed the implementation of the new rule and has begun the process of reversing it, but that may take a year.

All this makes crystal clear the importance the Migratory Bird Protection Act which would set in law the original intent of the MBTA and more than 100 years of precedent. The MBPA failed to make it out of the House in the last congress and must be reintroduced this session.

Representative Jayapal, a cosponsor last session, needs to hear from her constituents how vital this bill remains.

State Legislation

March 11, 2021 — Climate change presents the single greatest threat to birds (not to mention the rest of us). Forty-four percent of greenhouse gases produced in this state come from transportation.

Or own Representative Fitzgibbon is the primary sponsor of HB 1091, which would move us toward all-electric automobiles and small trucks while requiring cleaner, alternative fuels for diesel trucks and aircraft. HB 1091 passed the House on February 27. Thank you, Representatives Fitzgibbon and Cody!

The companion to this bill, SB 5231, is now before the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy and Technology. Our own Senator Nguyen sits on this committee and is a cosponsor of the bill. Thank you, Senator Nguyen!

Clean fuel legislation has been introduced and has failed repeatedly over the last few years. Senator Hobbs, chair of the Transportation Committee, has been the roadblock in passed efforts. There are some encouraging signs that he may find a way to support this vital legislation this session.

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