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CASH Courier > 2002 Spring / Summer Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Spring / Summer 2002 Issue

Background on the MBT (migratory bird treaty)

The Migratory Bird Treaty was signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to protect migratory birds. The other signatories to the treaty were Great Britain (for Canada), Russia, and Mexico – Japan was to join a little later. The US Congress codified the treaty into US law with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Under this law, the USFWS is charged with the responsibility of protecting migratory birds (including cormorants and Canada geese) from unlawful "taking." This act prohibits hunting the birds covered by the MBTA outside regular hunting seasons (from September to March) or other methods of killing in the period from about the middle of March to the middle of September. We see a very disturbing pattern emerging in the response of the USFWS to the demands of commercial fishing and other special interests:

As in the case of the cormorants, other cases in recent years have exposed a willingness of the USFWS to dispense with science and reason to mollify special interest demands to "do something." Killing wildlife is often the method of choice, used either as an expedient or as exploitation of the conflict to produce income for the agency. As Barry MacKay, a wildlife biologist and rehabilitator pointed out, "Do something" translates into "kill something."

For example, in the case of demands to eliminate Canada goose feces, the USFWS similarly reneged on its mandates under the MBTA and simply granted state agencies a standing permit to issue depredation permits to kill Canada Geese.

The MBTA deliberately placed the responsibilities for overseeing the management of migratory wildlife at the level of the USFWS precisely because it was felt that local agencies would be subject to too many destructive pressures. It was felt that at a federal level there would be more insulation from local demands and more objective, scientifically sound judgments would prevail.

The USFWS seems to be drifting in the other direction. It is relinquishing its control to the states, which are doing exactly what the MBTA tried to prevent: caving in to every demand of a special interest group to resolve a wildlife "problem." Radical and irreversible lethal resolutions are not in the best interest of the ecology, environment, species, or individual animals. Yet the USFWS often favors these methods regardless of the biological, ecological, or legal consequences.

"Red-neck biology" supported by "Junk-justice" in the courts seem to dominate the agency’s mode of operation in dealing with wildlife issues.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has strayed from its mission and frequently operates in direct opposition to its mandates.

We urge a comprehensive review of the USFWS and other federal agencies whose actions impact wildlife. The time has come for a full evaluation of the functions, policies, and practices of these important agencies. Such a review can only bring improvement and relief to wildlife (species and individuals), and, therefore, the larger public for whom wildlife is held in trust.

Wildlife Watch, is urging you to get in touch with your Congressional Representatives and Senators to initiate (or sign onto) a sign-on letter that calls for a complete review of the USFWS of the Department of Interior and Wildlife Control of the Department of Agriculture and their role in dealing with wildlife. (See our website for the draft letter)

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