The Migratory Bird Treaty
was signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to protect migratory birds.
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
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
(from September to March) or other methods of killing in the
about the middle of March to the middle of September. We see
a very disturbing pattern emerging in the response of the USFWS
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
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
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
The USFWS seems to be drifting in the other
direction. It is relinquishing its control to the states, which
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
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)