Animal Legal Defense Fund Calls On Agencies to Obey Federal Bird Laws, Stop Swallow Deaths

Posted on April 23, 2013

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

PETALUMA, Calif. — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent off a letter warning the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to cease and desist violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by using netting that has killed and injured over a hundred swallows in a one month period in Petaluma. ALDF’s letter, sent to the DOT and its partner agents C.C. Myers and Caltrans, calls upon the agencies to stop using the netting to block swallows from flying underneath the Petaluma River and Lakeville Overpass bridges. Caltrans, currently developing a U.S. highway 101 widening project in the Marin-Sonoma Narrows, has been criticized publically by animal advocates for the dangers posed to wildlife by the use of this netting. If no corrective action is taken by April 29, 2013, ALDF intends to commence legal action regarding the violations of federal laws.

For decades, each spring Cliff Swallows travel over 6000 miles from their wintering grounds in South America to set up nests in the Petaluma area. The swallows return to their nests from the previous year; to prevent this, contractor C.C. Myers installed restrictive netting that the swallows get trapped inside. This netting violates the National Environmental Policy Act as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) which provides that it is "unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner" to take, capture, or kill any migratory bird. Cliff swallows are included on the list of migratory birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 50 C.F.R. § 10.13.

"There are viable alternatives to the netting that will not take, capture, kill, injure, or maim the swallows that have nested under the bridge for decades," said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Cotati-based Animal Legal Defense Fund. "It is crucial that Caltrans find solutions that do not violate federal law."

Read the Letter

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