Merkley’s Bill to Strengthen Protections for Migratory Birds Passes out of Committee

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Penalty and Enforcement Act, a bill introduced by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley last November.  The legislation will increase the maximum penalties for intentionally harming or killing protected migratory birds.

“Congress should send a strong message that maliciously harming or killing protected migratory birds will result in more than just a slap on the wrist,” said Merkley.  “While the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been vital to conservation efforts, it’s time to strengthen existing law and ensure that the penalties for killing these rare birds are stiff enough to be a real deterrent.”

In 2007, three Oregon men were convicted of unlawfully capturing, torturing and killing protected raptors, some of which were raised by the Audubon Society.  The court penalized the men by giving them $4,000 each in fines and one year of probation, insufficient punishment for a crime which inflicted terrible pain on defenseless animals. 

Current law provides a misdemeanor penalty of up to $2,000 and two years in jail for each violation.  Merkley’s bill will make these crimes a felony and increase the maximum penalty to $50,000 and two years in jail.  Representative Peter DeFazio championed companion legislation in the House which passed last December.