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For the Birds
Protection of migratory birds a worldwide concern
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Tie score. After one Supreme Court ruling and one Presidential Executive Order the score stands Landfills - 1, Migratory Birds - 1.

On Jan. 9, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the U.S. Corps of Engineers could not use the Migratory Bird Rule of the National Clean Water Act to prevent the group of 23 Chicago-area municipalities from constructing a landfill atop 14 acres of seasonal ponds used by migratory birds.

On Jan. 11, 2001, President Clinton issued an Executive Order titled "Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds." 

Among other things, the order directs, "Each Federal agency taking actions that have, or are likely to have, a measurable negative effect on migratory bird populations is directed to develop and implement, within 2 years, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) that shall promote the conservation of migratory bird populations.

Of course, the Corps of Engineers probably felt that denying that landfill permit to fill in seasonal ponds used by migratory birds did "promote the conservation of migratory bird populations." But before the Supreme Court, you have your good days and your bad days.

It's not like migratory birds have not had their share of good days when it comes to gaining the protection of the US government. Here a list of laws that in some way protect migratory birds, their habitat, or both:

In addition, the United Sates government has, over the years, joined in migratory bird protection agreements with other countries:

  • Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds with Great Britain on behalf of Canada -- 1916
  • Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals-Mexico -- 1936
  • Convention for the Protection of Birds and Their Environment-Japan -- 1972
  • Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Birds and Their Environment-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -- 1978

Add to the above list state conservation laws, along with the support of sportsmen and environmental organizations, and there remains little worry that the millions of people who enjoy watching, feeding, studying, or hunting migratory birds in America and around the world can continue to do so for many generations to come. 


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Written by: Robert Longley
Date: 1/12/2001


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