Under Nixon through Obama, killing migratory birds was a crime, with violation fines ranging from $250 to $100 million. The power to prosecute created a deterrent protecting birds, holding companies accountable for environmental disasters, but due to Trump’s interior secretary, David Bernhardt, the wildlife cop is no longer on the beat. Bernhardt pushed a December 2017 legal opinion that declared the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act applies only when companies kill birds on purpose.
Bernhardt, a former industry lawyer, played an important role in the new interpretation. An email from the department’s top lawyer, Daniel Jorjani, said Bernhardt’s office had been involved “since Day 1.” Bernhardt’s client, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, pushed for the change. Bernhardt did not consider it a conflict of interest to work on the issue.
(Get used to this! Lots more coming!)