A clarification of rules by the Trump administration has all but eliminated criminal penalties for "incidental" migratory bird deaths, The New York Times is reporting.
The change in policy came in 2017 in what was initially believed to have been a technical clarification to a law protecting migratory birds.
But as a result, birds have been killed by oil spills, construction crews, and chemical contamination with no response from the government, the Times said. The newspaper attributed the information to emails, memos, and other documents it reviewed.
In one case, the state of Virginia was set for a major bridge and tunnel expansion in 2018, but engineers realized the nesting grounds of 25,000 gulls and other seabirds were going to be plowed under.
However, the federal government notified the state that new rules eliminated criminal penalties for "incidental" migratory bird deaths that came in the course of normal business, according to the Times.
In another case cited by the newspaper, the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed to a Wyoming-based oil company that it no longer had to report bird deaths.
The Times said the revision is part of the administration's effort to push business activity.
Gavin Shire, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, noted federal laws like the Endangered Species Act still exist. The administration, he said, "will continue to work cooperatively with our industry partners to minimize impacts on migratory birds."
But Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, claimed the Trump administration has engineered "a fundamental shift" in policy.
Jeffrey Rodack ✉
Jeffrey Rodack, who has nearly a half century in news as a senior editor and city editor for national and local publications, has covered politics for Newsmax for nearly seven years.
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