By Tim Manns
As the March issue of The Skagit Flyer appears, the Washington State Legislature’s session will be just a week from its scheduled March 8th finish. At this writing in mid-February, several of Audubon Washington’s legislative priorities are still in play: banning new Atlantic salmon net pens and phasing out existing leases, establishing a 100% clean energy standard for power production, putting a price on carbon pollution, and more. For current information, go to Audubon Washington State Director Gail Gatton’s reports at http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2018.
Preserve the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: At the national level, Audubon’s top two Congressional priorities need support from all of us. First is fending off attempts by the administration and Congress to weaken what National Audubon calls “America’s cornerstone bird conservation law.” This is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), passed a century ago in the same year the last Carolina parakeet died. Since the extinction of that beautiful native North American bird, the MBTA has provided the only protection for over 900 bird species not covered by other laws. The act implemented a treaty with Canada and later Mexico, Japan, and Russia. It protects birds by making it unlawful to kill, hunt, sell, or possess most native avian species in the U.S., along with their nests, eggs, and feathers, without a permit.
There are many modern threats to birds such as colliding with communications towers, power lines, and wind machines; becoming fouled by oil spills and in oil waste pits; being poisoned by pesticides; and more. Under the MBTA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service requires industry and utility companies to take reasonable measures to limit bird deaths as much as possible. Hence, you see the “firefly” devices which Puget Sound Energy fastens to power lines in Skagit County to help swans avoid them, and you see devices atop power poles to prevent raptors from electrocution when they perch. Under the act, BP is paying a $100 million dollar fine for the over one million birds killed by the Deepwater Horizon spill, funds that will help restore damaged wetlands. Last December, the administration issued a radically different interpretation of the MBTA departing from the consensus understanding of many years and exempting all unintentional deaths of birds. And now in Congress, H.R. 4239, the SECURE American Energy Act, has language to make this interpretation permanent, removing
any accountability for industrial activities that kill birds and erasing any incentive to prevent bird deaths.
This is the greatest threat to our most important bird protection measure in its hundred-year history. Please add your voice by urging your Member of Congress to uphold a strong MBTA. There’s an easy way to do this via the National Audubon Action Center: go to www.audubon.org/takeaction. Then click on “Defend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”
Renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund: The other top National Audubon priority for Congress this year is renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) before it expires September 30th. Since its bi-partisan establishment by Congress in 1965, the LWCF has been the main source of federal funds for acquiring public lands ranging from national to state, county, and city parks and other protected areas and recreational sites and facilities. Every state and almost every county in the U.S. has benefitted. The money comes almost entirely from fees paid for existing off-shore oil and gas leases. It’s no surprise, unfortunately, that there are those in political power today who oppose the very notion of public lands ownership even though as population grows, the need for places to experience the natural world and to recreate becomes ever greater.
You can see the state and local park projects the LWCF has paid for in Skagit County at http://projects.invw.org/data/lwcf/grants-wa.html. The Fund has also made multiple additions here to North Cascades National Park and to the Skagit Wild & Scenic River System, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. In Washington, state funds are used to match LWCF money and do even more for state and local parks. Many of these public areas protect important habitat for birds and other wildlife while also providing diverse benefits for
people. To allow the destruction of this program with its long, bi-partisan history of success would be a tragic mistake for which future generations would, and should, hold us accountable.
What can you do? Urge our senators and members of Congress to support permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by cosponsoring H.R.502/S.569. Go to http://www.audubon.org/takeaction and click on “Support Land and Water Conservation” or, better yet, call them or send your own email or letter.
Additional conservation issues: For information on additional conservation issues of concern to Skagit Audubon, see the Conservation Notes posted on the chapter website: http://skagitaudubon.org/ at the conservation tab.