The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to strengthen penalties for killing birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and also for passing legislation that creates a new stamp for the U.S. Postal Service to raise funds for international wildlife conservation. Both bills passed the House December 7 by voice vote.
"We applaud House lawmakers for passing these critical bills to stamp out extinction and crack down on illegal killing of wildlife," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer for The HSUS. "We thank Rep. Peter DeFazio and Rep. Henry Brown for leading the efforts on these important measures, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo for helping to shepherd them through to passage."
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act Penalty and Enforcement Act of 2009 was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in April 2009. This legislation will crack down on people who intentionally kill peregrine falcons, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks and other federally protected birds. The bill gives federal prosecutors the option of pursuing higher-level penalties for maliciously killing or wounding protected birds.
In recent years there have been horrifying examples of malicious cruelty to protected birds, such as "roller pigeon clubs" killing birds of prey through shooting, poisoning and even baiting raptors with pigeons rigged with fishing hooks, and cockfighters using baited, steel-jawed leghold traps to prevent raptors from preying on game fowl. Since the penalty for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was only a class B misdemeanor, this legislation finally provides a meaningful deterrent of prison time and hefty fines. A companion bill in the Senate has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
"Today's unanimous and bipartisan approval of my legislation is a result of robust discussions with conservation groups, hunting associations, Fish and Wildlife Service, the States, and my Republican colleagues," said DeFazio. "This bill provides our law enforcement officials with a strong tool to prosecute the most egregious and senseless crimes of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with stiff penalties. I am hopeful my bill will help put an end to the torturing and wanton killing of protected raptors and birds of prey."
Introduced by Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act creates a new stamp that the U.S. Postal Service will sell at a premium price to raise additional funds for international wildlife conservation. Congress has created a number of special funds to finance programs around the world that aid African and Asian elephants, great apes, marine turtles, rhinoceros, tigers and neotropical migratory birds. These critical projects receive some federal funding, but the conservation of imperiled species will be greatly enhanced by an infusion of more resources. The legislation is modeled on the highly successful efforts to raise funds to combat breast cancer. Since 1998, the USPS has sold 802 million breast cancer semipostal stamps to the public and has raised an impressive $59.5 million from such sales.
"This bill is a fiscally responsible measure that utilizes no taxpayer dollars and is designed to assist in the conservation of some of the most endangered, charismatic wildlife species on this planet," Rep. Brown said. "I thank the bipartisan group of 154 of my fellow colleagues who have cosponsored this bill and am pleased today on its passage by the U.S. House of Representatives."
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