By Tim Manns
On January 7th in the waning days of the previous federal administration, rulemaking to weaken the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) was to become final. Following inauguration of the new administration the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service quickly postponed the rule’s taking effect until March 8th and opened a public comment period through March 1st. Skagit Audubon signed on a National Audubon group letter and also sent its own urging return to the long-time interpretation of the MBTA as applying not only to deliberate but also to accidental harm to birds. This is the single most important law protecting birds in North America, applying to virtually all native species and key to protecting such Skagit icons as the Trumpeter Swan.
Also, at the federal level, National Audubon is collaborating with many other conservation organizations plus businesses and outdoor activity organizations to support passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. This act would dedicate substantial annual funding to implementing the Wildlife Action Plans each state has written to be eligible for federal funding to protect wildlife, particularly non-hunted species. The available federal funds have always been far below the need. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) lists about 1,600 species in trouble, but collectively the states’ Wildlife Action Plans describe almost 12,000 more that are in decline and without attention will become eligible for ESA listing in the future. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would greatly increase funding for protecting non-game species and their habitat and would forestall the declines that result in ESA listing followed by very expensive recovery programs or by extinction. This bi-partisan bill had many co-sponsors in the last Congress but did not fare as well in the Senate. It will be reintroduced in the present Congress. While more information and action alerts will be forthcoming from National Audubon, you can read about this initiative now and how to help on this National Wildlife Federation page: https:// www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Wildlife-Conservation/Policy/Recovering-Americas-Wildlife-Act.
At this writing, the Washington State legislative session is in its 6th of 13 weeks. The pace is fast, and each year many introduced bills do not survive. Audubon Washington’s top priorities, such as passing a Clean Fuels Standard to address the huge contribution which transportation fuels make to greenhouse gas emissions, are still in play. Those priorities which focus on the operating or capital budgets (e.g., adequate funding for WA Department of Fish & Wildlife and for habitat restoration grants) will be addressed later in the session when the biennial budget is debated. You can find a one-page summary of Audubon Washington’s priorities and the latest weekly legislative update by scrolling to the pdfs at the bottom of the following page: http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2020. Audubon Washington will present a webinar March 10th to update us on which Audubon priority policies are still in play, how the state conservation budget is looking, and how you can help. To register: go to https://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2020, scroll down a few lines to “Legislative Tracker”, open that document and scroll to the registration link.
For other ways to track the progress of legislation and contribute your voice, refer to the conservation report in last month’s Skagit Flyer. Our legislators do want to hear from us. You can be sure they are hearing from those who oppose conservation legislation.
For more on issues Skagit Audubon is tracking, go to “Conservation” on the Skagit Audubon website (www.skagitaudubon.org) and click on “Conservation Notes”.