Interior Finalizes MBTA Regulation, Sage Grouse Plans

Interior Finalizes MBTA Regulation, Sage Grouse Plans

During the final days of the Trump Administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior finalized a regulation defining the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as records of decision (RODs) that affirm their changes to greater sage-grouse plans.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) the MBTA regulation is intended to clarify that the scope of the MBTA only applies to the intentional take of birds and that unintentional take is not prohibited under the Act. The original regulation change came after a legal opinion was issued by the DOI Solicitor in December 2017 (Solicitor’s Opinion M-37050). The proposed rule was released in early February 2020 and the FWS conducted an Environmental Impact Statement that was published on November 27.

“This rule simply reaffirms the original meaning and intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by making it clear that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not prosecute landowners, industry and other individuals for accidentally killing a migratory bird. This opinion has been adopted by several courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Whether the final rules will stand when the new Administration takes office on January 20 is in question. Representative Deb Haaland, who has been nominated as the next Secretary of the Interior, introduced legislation to reverse the new MBTA interpretation.

Regarding the sage groups plans, the announcement on January 11 states that the agency has concluded additional review of its land use management plans determining that no further environmental analysis is warranted. The Bureau of Land Management stated in a release that, “The determinations are not new planning decisions. Instead, they are a determination not to amend existing land use plans and thus, are not subject to appeal or protest. They also represent the agency’s response to issues identified in an order issued in October 2019 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, which placed a preliminary injunction on the implementation of 2019 BLM sage-grouse plans in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, northeastern California, and Oregon.”

January 15, 2021