Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Trump's Christmas present to birds - Happy Extinction

Birds covered in oil
A new normal? Pelicans covered with oil
from the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Trump’s Christmas present to birds is the modern version of Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. That would be the human amplification of mass extinctions underway.

Lisa Friedman at the NY Times reports how A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ All but Ends Punishment for Bird Deaths. “A new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 2017 means that as of now, companies are no longer subject to prosecution or fines even after a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 that destroyed or injured about one million birds and for which BP paid $100 million in fines.” Photo credit Lee Celano/Reuters.

Following are excerpts.

… Across the country birds have been killed and nests destroyed by oil spills, construction crews and chemical contamination, all with no response from the federal government, according to emails, memos and other documents viewed by The New York Times.

Not only has the administration stopped investigating most bird deaths, the documents show, it has discouraged local governments and businesses from taking precautionary measures to protect birds.

In one instance, a Wyoming-based oil company wanted to clarify that it no longer had to report bird deaths to the Fish and Wildlife Service. “You are correct,” the agency replied.

In another, a building property manager in Michigan emailed the Fish and Wildlife Service to note that residents had complained about birds being killed while workers put up siding and gutters around the apartment. Not to worry, the agency replied: “If the purpose or intent of your activity is not to take birds/nests/eggs, then it is no longer prohibited.”

The revised policy — part of the administration’s broader effort to encourage business activity — has been a particular favorite of President Trump’s, whose selective view of avian welfare has ranged from complaining that wind energy “kills all the birds” to asserting that the oil industry has been subject to “totalitarian tactics” under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

In Albuquerque, N.M., Alan Edmonds, an animal cruelty case manager with New Mexico’s animal protection agency, pushed back after the Fish and Wildlife Service gave only a verbal warning to a company that had trapped and killed a Cooper’s hawk. The agency replied that, without proof that the company wanted to kill the hawk, “we can’t do anything.”

Mr. Edmonds said the company received “not even a slap on the wrist.” He acknowledged the hawk was just one bird. But Ms. Greenberger of the Audubon Society said, “This is how we lose birds.”

“We don’t lose them a billion at a time,” she said. “We lose them from small incidents happening repeatedly over the vast geography of our country.”

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