A Special Purpose: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Wind Energy

Journal Article

Title: A Special Purpose: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Wind Energy
Authors: Rose, R.
Publication Date:
October 01, 2014
Journal: Natural Resources Journal
Volume: 55
Pages: 205-229

Document Access

Website: External Link
Attachment: Access File
(168 KB)


Rose, R. (2014). A Special Purpose: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Wind Energy. Natural Resources Journal, 55, 205-229.

Wind turbines have been described as "bird blender[s]" and, conversely, part of America's "clean and secure energy future." While the monikers change, the facts about wind turbines remain constant. First, wind turbines kill or injure approximately 440,000 birds annually. Second, the United States continues to set records in wind energy production and manufacturing. This causes tension between bird conservationists, wind energy developers, and politicians. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) sits at the very center of the debate. Congress enacted the MBTA in 1916, nearly a century ago, and long before commercial wind turbines cranked out energy. In a 1916 treaty between the United States and Canada, the countries officially recognized that overhunting and "indiscriminate slaughter" of migratory birds lead to population declines. Consequently, the United States entered into successive treaties with Mexico, Japan, and the former Soviet Union to further protect migratory birds. Today, the MBTA protects over 1000 different bird species, many of which are especially vulnerable to commercial wind energy development. Modern courts, interpreting the 1918 law, are split on commercial actors' liability under the MBTA when protected birds are unintentionally killed.

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