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January 2005 Report Continued
Do these two pests look too familiar? They are no longer protected by federal law.   Read On.

English Starling. Note: Not to be confused with the American Blackbird or subfamily Icterinae (Bobolink; Red-winged, Tricolored, Yellow-headed, Rusty, or Brewer's Blackbirds; Grackles; Meadowlarks) Or, Crows. Feral ("Rock") Pigeon



No Protection for Aliens, Declares U.S. Government

Not the human kind, nor the kind from distant galaxies, but the winged kind - birds from other countries around the globe, that have been introduced to the U.S. both intentionally and accidentally, and that can subsequently wreak havoc on the environment. In 2001, following a surprising judicial interpretation of America s oldest surviving wildlife statute, introduced bird species could be afforded federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and so efforts by state or federal wildlife agencies to control them could be thwarted. Not any more, thanks to the Migratory Bird Treat Reform Act of 2004, which was attached to the massive 2005 Omnibus Spending Bill approved by Congress. Bird conservation groups, such as American Bird Conservancy, are applauding the new legislation, and have praised Congress for its actions.

The Reform Act now clearly distinguishes between the native species that the original Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was implemented to protect, and introduced species such as the Rock Pigeon and European Starling. The law also redresses the imbalance created by the 2001 court decision regarding the alien Mute Swan. In a bizarre reversal of logic, it became illegal to shoot a Mute Swan, while permits were readily available in many states to hunt native Tundra Swans, despite their decline in some places where introduced Mutes are present. The bill now awaits President Bush s signature.

Invasive species are regarded as one of the biggest conservation threats in America today, with such issues as northern snakehead, west Nile virus, and feral domestic cats regularly making headlines around the nation. Introduced European Starlings have been blamed for declines in Eastern Bluebird and Red-headed Woodpecker populations, and avian malaria (carried there by birds introduced from elsewhere) has contributed to the decline and extinction of several bird species in Hawaii. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Maryland) led the charge for the Reform Act, which has received overwhelming support from dozens of national conservation, ornithological, and wildlife management organizations.

The inclusion of the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act in the omnibus bill redresses the balance that was upset by the 2001 court ruling, said David Fischer, Director of Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy, which has helped lead the fight for the new legislation. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was created to protect our native migratory bird species from over-hunting and was never intended to apply to introduced species. Mr. Gilchrest and other members of Congress are to be commended for their efforts in getting this legislation passed.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 is one of the first and most important federal conservation statutes. It has prevented unregulated removal of native birds from wild populations throughout its history," said Rep. Gilchrest today. "The biodiversity of our nation's ecosystems is worth preserving in as pristine a state as possible, and statutory clarification of the Act's purpose - to protect native birds - helps protect this nation's natural wild bird heritage."

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a U.S.-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC is headquartered in Virginia, with offices in ten states and the District of Columbia. ABC has more than 300 partner organizations throughout the Americas, primarily through its leadership roles in the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, Partners in Flight, the Bird Conservation Alliance, the National Pesticide Reform Coalition, and the Alliance for Zero Extinction. ABC was recently rated one of the best-managed small charities in the U.S. by the independent group Charity Navigator, and given their highest rating for fiscal management. For more information, see:


What Happens If You Don't Do--
"The Birds Are Falling: Avian losses could hit ecosystems hard"

Science News December 18 & 25 2004

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