BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized changes that weaken the government’s enforcement powers under a century-old law protecting most American wild bird species, brushing aside warnings that billions of birds could die as a result.

Federal wildlife officials have acknowledged the move could result in more deaths of birds such as those that land in oil pits or collide with power lines or other structures.

A US District Court judge in August had blocked the administration’s prior attempt to change how the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is enforced.

But urged on by industry groups, the Trump administration has remained adamant that the act has been wielded inappropriately for decades, to penalize companies and other entities that kill birds accidentally.

More than 1,000 species are covered under the migratory bird law, and the move to lessen enforcement standards have drawn a sharp backlash from organizations that advocate on behalf of an estimated 46 million US birdwatchers.

Conservationists said Tuesday they would push President-elect Joe Biden to reverse the Interior Department rule, which blocks officials from bringing criminal charges unless birds are specifically targeted for death or injury.

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