MILTON, Del. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, visited Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge to discuss his efforts to preserve and protect important habitats in the First State with stakeholders and Delawareans.
Recently Sen. Carper stood up in defense of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act and achieved bipartisan consensus to introduce and shepherd into law the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act. These important statutes protect our national wildlife refuges and the many species that call them home. They also ensure that the public can enjoy these natural places for decades to come.
“May is a particularly special time to visit our Refuges, as visitors are able to see Piping Plovers nesting on our beaches and Red Knots fueling on horseshoe crabs. And if you’re lucky, you can see Bald Eagles, too. I believe we have an obligation to protect these spectacular birds and their habitat, and doing so also drives our thriving ecotourism economy, both here in Delaware and across the country,” said Senator Carper. “Local economies, including ours, benefit from the $14.9 billion that birdwatchers spend on food, lodging and transportation. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many volunteers of all backgrounds who donate their time each year to make sure that birders feel welcome in the First State and that our refuges continue to be premier birding destinations.”
Senator Carper was joined by representatives from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, American Bird Conservancy, American Birding Association, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Nature Conservancy, Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society, Delaware Wildlands and volunteers from both Bombay Hook and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges.
Background on the issues discussed:
Endangered Species Act – Last October, Senator Carper led the charge to defeat a dangerous amendment that sought to remove protections for endangered species. Specifically, the amendment would have laid the groundwork to prohibit federal protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for species found entirely within the borders of a single state, including iconic species like the Polar Bear and Florida Panther. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 51-49, with every Democratic senator and three Republican senators voting against it.
Most recently, Senator Carper sent a letter with Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing administrative efforts to weaken the ESA. Both Piping Plovers and Red Knots are protected under the ESA; further, the Bald Eagle, which is now commonly seen in Delaware, is one of the ESA’s best success stories.
Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act – Senator Carper introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act, which reauthorizes the National Wildlife Refuge System’s volunteer, community partnership and education program through Fiscal Year 2022. This bill was enacted into law after passing Congress this spring. The National Wildlife Refuge System volunteer program is especially important in Delaware since the First State’s two refuge visitor centers are run almost entirely by volunteers.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act – The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits unauthorized killing and harming of migratory birds. In late December 2017, the Department of Interior issued a new legal opinion interpreting this prohibition to only apply to intentional taking of birds. This interpretation shields entities that unintentionally kill migratory birds from prosecution under the Act. For more than 40 years, every Administration – both Republican and Democrat – has interpreted the take prohibition to include some form of incidental take. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, including prohibitions on incidental take, has incentivized businesses to exercise basic precautions and develop best management practices to reduce impacts of development on birds. In February 2018, Sen. Carper and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) led all Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee expressing concerns regarding the Administration’s position.