A Guide to the Migratory Bird Conservation Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA) plays a crucial role in protecting and conserving migratory birds and their habitats across the United States. This comprehensive guide provides a detailed exploration of the MBCA, offering valuable insights into its key provisions, compliance requirements, and enforcement mechanisms. Readers will gain a thorough understanding of the act's history, its relationship with other environmental regulations, and the specific activities and substances it regulates. The guide also delves into the compliance standards, monitoring and reporting obligations, and potential penalties for violations, providing a clear roadmap for navigating the complexities of the MBCA. Additionally, readers will discover the various compliance assistance programs and regulatory incentives available to support their conservation efforts. By the end of this guide, readers will be well-equipped to effectively manage their projects and operations in accordance with the MBCA, ensuring the long-term conservation of migratory birds and their essential habitats.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Key Details of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act

Issuing Agency: United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Year Established: 1929 Last Amended: 1962 Statutory to Authority: Migratory Bird Conservation Act Primary Legal Reference: Title 16, United States Code, Sections 715-715s

What is the Migratory Bird Conservation Act?

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act is a federal law that operates within the broader framework of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918. The Act was established in 1929 to protect and conserve migratory birds and their habitats in the United States. It authorizes the acquisition and preservation of wetlands and other suitable areas as refuges for migratory birds.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the primary agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The Act's primary goal is to establish and maintain a network of protected areas, known as migratory bird refuges, to provide essential habitat for migratory birds throughout their range.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act achieves its goals through several key mechanisms:

  1. Authorizing the acquisition of land and water areas suitable for migratory bird habitats.
  2. Establishing a Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to review and approve land acquisitions.
  3. Providing funds for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of migratory bird refuges.

The Act applies to all migratory birds protected under the MBTA, which includes nearly all native bird species in the United States.1

What does the Migratory Bird Conservation Act protect?

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act protects migratory birds and their habitats. The Act authorizes the acquisition and preservation of wetlands, bottomland hardwoods, and other suitable areas as refuges for migratory birds. These protected areas provide essential habitat for breeding, wintering, and migrating birds, helping to ensure their survival and conservation.

The Act protects migratory birds from habitat loss and degradation by securing and maintaining a network of refuges across the United States. These refuges offer birds safe spaces to rest, feed, and reproduce, free from the pressures of human development and disturbance. By conserving and managing these critical habitats, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act plays a vital role in the long-term preservation of migratory bird populations.

REGULATORY SCOPE & JURISDICTION

Regulated Activities, Entities & Prohibited Substances

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA) is a federal law that aims to protect migratory birds and their habitats. The act regulates activities that may harm or interfere with migratory birds, their nests, and eggs. The MBCA applies to a wide range of entities, including individuals, businesses, and government agencies.

The following activities are prohibited under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act:

  1. Hunting, capturing, or killing migratory birds: It is illegal to hunt, capture, or kill migratory birds without a valid permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

  2. Selling or trafficking migratory birds: The MBCA prohibits the sale, barter, or transport of migratory birds, their parts, nests, or eggs without proper authorization.

  3. Disturbing or destroying nests and eggs: It is unlawful to disturb, destroy, or take the nests or eggs of migratory birds without a permit from the USFWS.

  4. Possessing migratory birds or their parts: Possessing migratory birds, their parts, nests, or eggs without a valid permit or other authorization is prohibited.

These prohibitions are in place to protect migratory birds and their habitats from human activities that may cause harm or disruption. By regulating hunting, trafficking, and other activities, the MBCA helps to ensure the conservation of migratory bird populations and maintain the ecological balance of their habitats.

Key Sections of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act

Section 4 - Migratory Bird Conservation Commission

  • Purpose: Establishes the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) to oversee the acquisition and management of lands for migratory bird conservation.
  • Key requirements: The MBCC is composed of the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Agriculture, and two members each from the Senate and House of Representatives.
  • Significance: The MBCC plays a crucial role in identifying and approving the acquisition of land for migratory bird refuges, which is essential for protecting and preserving migratory bird habitats.
  • Compliance strategies: Developers and stakeholders should be aware of the MBCC's role in establishing migratory bird refuges and consider the potential impact of their projects on these protected areas.
  • Important processes: The MBCC reviews and approves land acquisition proposals for migratory bird refuges, ensuring that the most critical habitats are protected.

Relationship to Other Regulations & Agencies

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act interacts with several other federal regulations and agencies:

  1. Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA): The MBCA works in conjunction with the MBTA, which implements international treaties for the protection of migratory birds. The MBTA prohibits the taking, killing, or possessing of migratory birds, their parts, nests, or eggs without a permit.2

  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS): The USFWS is responsible for implementing and enforcing the MBCA. The agency issues permits for activities that may impact migratory birds and manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes lands acquired under the MBCA.3

  3. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Projects that require federal funding, permits, or approvals may be subject to NEPA review. The MBCA and its provisions for migratory bird conservation may be considered during the NEPTA review process.

  4. State and local regulations: Some states and local jurisdictions may have additional regulations or ordinances that protect migratory birds and their habitats. Developers and stakeholders should consult with the relevant state and local agencies to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS & STANDARDS

Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA) and its implementing regulations establish various standards and limitations to protect migratory birds and their habitats. These include:

  1. Hunting Restrictions: The MBCA prohibits the hunting, taking, capturing, killing, or selling of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, and nests, except as permitted by regulations.4

  2. Habitat Protection: The act authorizes the acquisition and preservation of migratory bird habitats, including the establishment of migratory bird sanctuaries and refuges.5

  3. Permit Requirements: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issues permits for limited exceptions to the prohibitions, such as for scientific research, education, and indigenous cultural practices.6

  4. Penalties: Violations of the MBCA can result in fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the nature and severity of the offense.7

The USFWS is responsible for enforcing these standards and limitations through inspections, investigations, and legal action when necessary.

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the MBCA, regulated entities have limited monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping obligations, as the act primarily focuses on the direct protection of migratory birds and their habitats. However, entities that obtain permits for activities that may impact migratory birds, such as scientific research or wildlife rehabilitation, may be required to:

  1. Maintain accurate records of their permitted activities, including the species and numbers of birds affected, the dates and locations of the activities, and the methods used.8

  2. Submit periodic reports to the USFWS summarizing their permitted activities and any relevant findings or observations.9

  3. Notify the USFWS of any unusual or unanticipated events, such as the unintentional injury or death of a migratory bird during permitted activities.10

These obligations help ensure that permitted activities are conducted in accordance with the terms of the permit and the goals of the MBCA, and provide valuable information for the conservation and management of migratory bird populations.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The USFWS enforces the MBCA through various means, including:

  1. Inspections: USFWS officers may conduct routine or targeted inspections of facilities, properties, or activities that may impact migratory birds to ensure compliance with the MBCA and its regulations.11

  2. Investigations: The USFWS may investigate suspected violations of the MBCA based on complaints, tips, or other information.12

  3. Legal Action: In cases of significant or repeated violations, the USFWS may pursue legal action, including civil penalties, criminal charges, or injunctive relief.13

Penalties for violations of the MBCA can include:

Violation TypePenalty
Misdemeanor- Fine of up to $15,000- Imprisonment for up to 6 months- Or both
Felony (knowingly selling migratory birds)- Fine of up to $2,000- Imprisonment for up to 2 years- Or both

Factors that may influence the severity of the penalty include the number of birds affected, the conservation status of the species, the intent of the violator, and any prior history of violations.14

Compliance Assistance & Regulatory Incentives

The USFWS offers various resources and programs to help entities understand and comply with the MBCA, including:

  1. Technical Assistance: The USFWS provides guidance documents, fact sheets, and online resources to help regulated entities interpret and meet the requirements of the MBCA.15

  2. Permits: The USFWS issues permits for certain activities that may impact migratory birds, such as scientific research, education, and indigenous cultural practices.16

  3. Partnerships: The USFWS works with various partners, including other federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, industry groups, and conservation organizations, to promote migratory bird conservation and provide compliance assistance.

  4. Voluntary Programs: The USFWS administers voluntary programs, such as the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds, which provides technical assistance and funding to cities and partners to conserve migratory birds and their habitats in urban environments.

Entities seeking to participate in these programs or obtain compliance assistance should visit the USFWS website or contact their regional USFWS office for more information.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Regulatory History & Upcoming Changes

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA) was enacted in 1929 to establish a Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to approve areas recommended by the Secretary of the Interior for acquisition with Migratory Bird Conservation Funds.[^300] The Act provides a comprehensive framework for the protection and conservation of migratory birds in the United States.

Key amendments to the MBCA include:

  1. Wetlands Loan Act of 1961: Accelerated wetland acquisition for migratory waterfowl habitat conservation by authorizing an advance of funds against future revenues from the sale of duck stamps.[^301]
  2. Wetlands Loan Extension Act of 1976: Extended the loan provisions of the Wetlands Loan Act of 1961 to September 30, 1983, and increased the ceiling to $200 million.[^302]
  3. 1989 North American Wetlands Conservation Act: Established a North American Wetlands Conservation Council to recommend wetlands conservation projects to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.[^303]

These amendments were driven by growing concerns over the loss of wetland habitats and the need for increased funding and coordination in migratory bird conservation efforts.

As of September 2021, there are no significant proposed rules, regulatory changes, or pending legislation related to the MBCA. However, interested parties can stay informed about potential future developments by:

  • Regularly checking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website for updates and announcements.
  • Subscribing to relevant agency newsletters and email alerts.
  • Engaging with industry associations and conservation organizations that track regulatory developments.

Additional Resources

  1. Full text of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act [^305]
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Migratory Bird Program [^306]
  3. "Migratory Bird Treaty Act: A Century of Protection" by Kevin J. Kritz [^308]

[^300]: 16 U.S.C. §§ 715-715s [^301]: Wetlands Loan Act of 1961, Pub. L. No. 87-383, 75 Stat. 813 [^302]: Wetlands Loan Extension Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-215, 90 Stat. 189 [^303]: North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Pub. L. No. 101-233, 103 Stat. 1968 (1989) [^305]: Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, "16 U.S. Code Chapter 7, Subchapter III - Migratory Bird Conservation,", https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/16/chapter-7/subchapter-III [^306]: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Migratory Bird Program,", https://www.fws.gov/birds/index.php [^308]: Kevin J. Kritz, "Migratory Bird Treaty Act: A Century of Protection," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, https://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/migtrea.html

REFERENCES

  1. "Migratory Bird Treaty Act." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, https://www.fws.gov/birds/policies-and-regulations/laws-legislations/migratory-bird-treaty-act.php. Accessed 14 July 2021.

  2. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 703-712 (1918). https://www.fws.gov/birds/policies-and-regulations/laws-legislations/migratory-bird-treaty-act.php

  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Migratory Bird Program." https://www.fws.gov/program/migratory-birds

  4. 16 U.S.C. § 703(a)

  5. 16 U.S.C. § 715d

  6. 50 C.F.R. § 21.11-21.41

  7. 16 U.S.C. § 707

  8. 50 C.F.R. § 13.45

  9. 50 C.F.R. § 13.45

  10. 50 C.F.R. § 13.50

  11. 16 U.S.C. § 706

  12. 16 U.S.C. § 706

  13. 16 U.S.C. § 707

  14. 16 U.S.C. § 707

  15. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  16. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.