TESTIMONY OF KEVIN ADAMS,
CHIEF, OFFICE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BEFORE THE SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE, UNITED STATES SENATE ON H.R 2863, MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY REFORM ACT OF 1998, AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SEPTEMBER 29, 1998

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Administration's position on H.R. 2863, the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 1998, as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. As passed, this bill would eliminate the current "strict liability" standard used in enforcing waterfowl baiting regulations and make it illegal for any person to place or direct the placement of bait on or adjacent to an area being hunted.

The Department of the Interior shares your concern for the need to clarify and simplify the migratory game bird hunting regulations regarding baiting. On March 25, 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published in the Federal Register for public review and comment a proposed rule concerning hunting migratory birds by baiting or using baited areas. This rule~ making process was initiated after extensive review of the current regulations and in response to public concerns about interpretation and clarity of those regulations, especially with respect to current migratory bird habitat conservation practices. The Administration believes that H.R. 2863 will disrupt the Agency's ongoing decision-making process and is opposed to the bill.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which implements international treaties with four of our neighboring countries for protection and conservation of migratory birds, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to determine by regulation "...when, to what extent, if at all, and by what means, it is compatible with the terms of the conventions to allow hunting..."

Federal baiting regulations were established in 1935 when waterfowl populations suffered from drought, degradation of habitat, and over-harvest by hunting. The two hunting practices primarily responsible for over-harvest were the use of bait and live decoys, both of which quite effectively lure birds to waiting guns. Of all the factors affecting migratory bird populations, these two can be controlled or curtailed by enforcement actions.

Enforcement of the baiting regulations include a "strict liability" doctrine. Under strict liability, the government does not need to prove that the hunter knew he or she was violating the law. H.R. 2863, as passed by the House, would eliminate the "strict liability" standard and replace it with the know or reasonably should have known standard. This new standard will require Service law enforcement officers to prove that a person knows or reasonably should have known that the area in which he or she was hunting migratory birds was baited before it can establish that a violation occurred. This bill will also include this language in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, rather than in the Code of Federal Regulations, where the current prohibitions are found.

This concludes my statement. I would be glad to answer questions.