Vermont House Passes Bill to Protect Migratory Birds

On March 13, the Vermont House of Representatives passed H.683, “An act relating to the protection of migratory birds” by a wide, tri-partisan margin. This bill fills the gap for Vermont left by federal rollbacks of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of our nation’s oldest wildlife protections. Sponsored by Representatives Amy Sheldon of Middlebury and Kari Dolan of Waitsfield, with 32 other co-sponsors, H.683 would prohibit activities that would harm or kill wild birds where the harm or death would be a direct and foreseeable result. This restriction on “incidental takings” of birds would be enforced by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and replace the loss of this authority, previously exercised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, until the agency reinterpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 2017.

In testimony before the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, Audubon Vermont Executive Director David Mears testified that “bird populations are in significant decline across North America and in Vermont as a result of human activities.” He continued, “H.683 will serve as an important deterrent to human activities conducted without regard to the impacts on birds.” Professor Allan Strong, a renowned ornithologist at the University of Vermont, also testified in support of H.683 and urged the legislature to “counteract this short-sighted federal policy” and restore protection for vulnerable species. Audubon members Kathleen Guinness, Sue Elliott, Patrick Phillips, and Cory Ross also testified, sharing on-the-ground stories about the importance of protecting birds from Audubon chapters across the state.

H.683 will now move to the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy for consideration, subject to the challenges being faced by the Vermont General Assembly and the nation in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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