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Audubon Society Sets Sights On Washington Climate Policy

2018 is the year of the bird. The Audubon Society is celebrating the centennial of what it calls the most important federal bird protection law ever passed. But the group says local climate policies are just as important, including one still in play in Washington state.

Audubon is taking 2018 to celebrate the importance of birds in peoples’ lives and their role in ecosystems.

Each month, people all over the country are doing something – like growing native plants – to help support their feathered friends. Audubon has joined with about 100 other organizations including National Geographic and many agencies such as state Fish and Wildlife offices to spread the word.

Audubon’s national president David Yarnold says the 100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act requires industries to prevent accidental killing of birds as they go about their business.

“A great example of that is waste pits in oil drilling sites. Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, those are covered, so that birds don’t mistake them for ponds when they’re migrating. And that law is now under threat,” Yarnold said.

A directive from the Interior Department in late December gutted the law, saying that if bird deaths happen accidentally, penalties need not be levied. Audubon is fighting that.

At the same time, the organization has honed in on climate change as a priority. Yarnold says a study it published in 2014 showed that nearly half of all bird species in North America could lose more than half of their habitat by 2080 because of rising temperatures.

“Including 198 species in Washington alone. So, there are iconic birds, like the bald eagle, there are birds that are close to people’s hearts – everywhere in the country, that are threatened by climate change,” he said.

Audubon is supporting polices that address climate change on the state level. In Washington, the organization has supported proposals to reduce carbon pollution by putting a price on it.

The latest carbon tax put forward by Gov. Jay Inslee just failed in Olympia. Yarnold says there’s still an important bill in play, House Bill 2995, which would replace fossil fuels with 100 percent renewables by 2045.  

“Because there’s not a lot of action at the federal level right now, all of the opportunity is in the states. And Washington is at-bat – it’s up – and the legislature has been talking about this for 59 days, it’s been a great conversation. And they’re poised to act,” he said.

Yarnold says Audubon wants to see Washington leading the way on climate policies, along with California and British Columbia, which both have carbon-pricing. Inslee is said to be pushing for passage of the 100 percent clean energy standard as well, as a kind of consolation prize after the failure of the carbon tax.  

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to