A Century of Bird Conservation

Richard Moore Outdoor Report

One of the most important conservation laws ever enacted was passed a century ago. This year on its 100th birthday, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act is as vital now as ever.

The magnificent plumage of the Great egret beckons.  The delicate cloak of feathers tapers down its back as lacy plumes sway in the gentle breeze.

Joining the resplendent Great egret are some 30 Colonial Waterbirds that make their home and migrate along the Texas coast. Including Herons, Spoonbills, Ibises, Pelicans, Gulls, Terns and Skimmers.

We are fortunate to have these beautiful birds, and if it were not for the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which became federal law 100 years ago in 1918 these fabulously feathered creatures would likely have vanished forever.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act made it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill,” or “sell” a migratory bird or any of its parts.”

The elegantly flowing feathers of Egrets and Herons were coveted by fashionable ladies for decorating their hats in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Plume hunters almost wiped out the species, until passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act a century ago.

Plume hunters were paid $32 an ounce for the feathers, nearly twice the price of gold at the time.  Strict enforcement of the law was required over many years to stop the illicit and lucrative trade.

While market hunting is no longer a serious threat, loss of habitat, pesticides, open oil pits, power lines, cell phone towers and wind turbines combined kill millions of birds each year.

Indeed, if future generations are to inherit their incredible avian natural heritage, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is surely as important now as it was a century ago.  The Act must be enforced and enhanced to its fullest potential to bring industry in compliance with the full intent of the law.

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