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California Discusses Protecting Migratory Birds After Rollback Of Federal Protections

Bureau of Land Management
The Cosumnes River Preserve is home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest, and is one of the few protected wetland habitat areas in the state.";

Should protecting California's birds take place at the federal or state level?

Democratic Assemblymember Ash Kalra of San Jose aims to break the link between state regulations and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act with a new bill.

Over a year ago, the Trump Administration rolled back the federal treaty that protected migratory birds like eagles and hummingbirds. Assembly Bill 454 would restore some of those protections, but it will have to survive arguments from groups, including oil and solar energy interests.

"It's not just for the birds,” Kalra said. “It's really for us to make a clear statement that California is going to lead when it comes to protecting our environment."

Melissa Cortez-Roth with the California Wind Energy Association recently spoke out against the bill. “Our industry has not historically been prosecuted under the act, we believe that changes under this bill,” she said. “We are already subject to a number of best practice guidelines.”

Proponents of the bill say regulations in California won't harm industries, because they've lived under the guidelines for more than a century.

Michael Lynes, a public policy director of Audubon California, says this is a perfect moment for California to defend the birds that migrate through the state.

“California needs to step up and ensure that our natural treasures are safeguarded,” Lynes said. “This bill is vital if we want a future California that we can be proud to leave to our children.”

But moving the bill forward won’t be easy, proponents admit. "We know it's going to be a fight given that industries like oil are involved,” said Juan Altamirano, Audubon California’s associate director of public policy. “But who doesn't want to protect birds? Who doesn't want to see and hear a beautiful sound outside every morning?"

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