Thomas Cribbins is a junior at the University of Michigan studying political science.
From the very beginning, Americans have been wary of the power of the federal government. The Framers tried to hedge this concern by creating a “government of laws, not men.”.  The Federalist Papers echo reassurance to pre-Constitutional America by promising to protect the government from ambitious, self-interested politicians and factions.  In Federalist 45, Madison again addressed the fears of an almighty central government by announcing: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”  However, the federal government’s power has certainly expanded in the intervening centuries, particularly in the last few decades. Pushing the limits of the enumerated powers has employed many people in and outside the federal government. However, the issue stems when stretching an enumerated power cannot get the job done. What is Congress, the President or any other part of the federal government to do when the puzzle simply will not come together? This brings to the curious case of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Supreme Court case Missouri v. Holland (1920), and what seems to amount to the new powers the federal government assumed because they were granted by Canada.
Until 1918, states were granted almost all authority over the taking of game animals within their state.In turn, every state had radically different ideas about game management and this dynamic generated a moral hazard with several states competing to take a larger share of game. This included inflating bag limits to prevent more southern states from being able to take a larger share of the waterfowl or other migratory birds that routinely crossed state lines.  Congress decided to stop the madness and protect the common-pool resource that the states all intended to desecrate. The result was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, a treaty with Canada that granted the Secretary of the Interior the broad, redundant and superfluous powers to regulate migratory birds. The treaty was eventually signed onto by Mexico, Russia and Japan, but the point still remains: who said Congress or the federal government at large should be in charge of regulating migratory birds?  Who even said they should have any part at all?