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Judge Rules Against Trump Administration In Migratory Bird Case

A judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

The act was passed in 1918 to protect migratory birds. 

For decades, those protections included what’s known as incidental take. Birds that die in settling ponds at mines. Birds electrocuted by power lines. The Trump administration argued the act should not cover incidental take. 

Conservationists filed suit, and a judge has ruled in their favor.

“The idea that Congress didn’t intend for incidental take, when this a huge source of harm, to birds, is, is, it just doesn’t pass the laugh test," said Jacob Malcom, a spokesman for Defenders of Wildlife. "And I think really the judge’s decision points that out.”

Malcolm said companies routinely work to protect birds from settling ponds and power lines. The ruling means they will continue to do so. 

"Under the current administration’s interpretation, basically the mining companies would not be liable for killing those birds, so they wouldn’t have to even try to keep them off and try to make sure they’re not getting killed out on the ponds," Malcom said. 

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Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.