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US Military in Violation of Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Federal Judge Faults Navy Bombing of Pacific Island

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Victory

In March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the Navy and Department of Defense were violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by bombing and shelling a small island in the Pacific Ocean (Farallon de Medinilla, in the Northern Marianas, or FDM), and killing protected birds.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918 and implements several international treaties regarding protected birdlife that the US is a party to. The MBTA prohibits killing or otherwise harming migratory birds in the absence of a permit issued in accordance with regulations. The Navy admitted that protected birds are killed by the training exercises, and applied to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for a permit to continue, but the FWS declined to issue a permit in 1996. Nevertheless, the Defense Department continued to bomb the island illegally, claiming that the MBTA doesn't apply to federal agencies.

At least two-dozen species of birds use the FDM islands, including at least a dozen species of migratory birds that nest at FDM. FDM is home to breeding colonies of great frigatebirds and masked boobies as well as the endangered Micronesian Megapode.

Program Area:  The Wild
Office:  Mid-Pacific
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