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    1. USFWS proposes formal MBTA incidental take rule

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Update: Read the comments filed by the Ornithological Council.

      Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing a rule that defines the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to provide regulatory certainty to the public, industries, states, tribes and other stakeholders.

      This proposed rule clarifies that the scope of the MBTA only extends to conduct intentionally injuring birds. Conduct that results in the unintentional (incidental) injury or death of migratory birds is not prohibited under the act.

      Background: the USFWS under this Administration developed a policy known as an M-Opinion, which is internal agency policy, stating that the law does not prohibit incidental take of migratory bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

      The policy has been in litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for some time and is still pending. It is unlikely to be adjudicated before June of this year and any decision will be appealed.

      Throughout this time, the USFWS has stated that it intends to promulgate a formal regulation. Doing so would obviate one of the key aspects of the legal challenge - that there was no opportunity for public input. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, public input is required when a formal regulation is proposed.

       

       

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    2. Gearing up for field season - get your permit apps in early

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Field season is right around the corner! If you haven't already applied for your permits/renewals, do it ASAP.

      URGENT NEWS FOR THOSE NEEDING PERMITS FROM USFWS REGION 8: This information was received by the Ornithological Council on 23 Jan 2020:

      Our office is currently very short-staffed and is experiencing a backlog of one year with processing permits and mail.

      Do not follow up with a hard copy unless asked to do so or if you are sending a processing fee through the mail.  The only way we can accept processing fees is with a hard copy check or money order payable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

      Reports – if you are submitting a report, no further action is needed.

      Applications – if you are submitting an application.  No further action is needed; however, we do recommend following up with our office if you have not heard from us after 6 months.

      Questions – if you have a question, a response may require research and time.  We appreciate your patience and will respond to your inquiry at our earliest opportunity.

       

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    3. Farewell to Bruce Peterjohn, BBL Chief

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Please join the Ornithological Council in saying farewell to Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the USGS Bird Banding Lab, who has announced his retirement.  We thank him for his superb service to the ornithological community and to the science and practice of bird banding, through both his excellent management of the BBL under very trying circumstances and for his own contributions as a long-time bander.

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    4. USFWS permit apps NOW ONLINE

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The Ornithological Council has been encouraging the USFWS to develop an online permitting system since 2002 and congratulates the agency on reaching this important junction - online permit applications. We encourage everyone to register; if you encounter any problems or questions, please let us know and we will relay them to the USFWS.

      To apply for permits through the Service’s new payment platform, visit: https://epermits.fws.gov/. For more information regarding the permitting process, visit: https://www.fws.gov/permits/.

       

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    5. BirdsCaribbean and the Bahamas National Trust need our help!

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Please help BirdsCaribbean and the Bahamas National Trust to help birds survive, and clean up and restore vital habitats. They need funds to carry out bird surveys, provide supplemental feeding, repair and replace damaged equipment and infrastructure, and restore their national parks on these islands.. 

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      • 527 views
    6. Please write to protest 100% budget cut to U of Alaska Museum

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Update: the situation has improved to some extent. The museum is now facing "only" a 50% budget cuts. Meanwhile, the governor is still considering legislation that would restore most of the governor's drastic budget cuts. A veto has been expected but given that it has not yet happened, and given the enormous outcry at the cuts, it is possible that some funding, including funding for the museum, may be restored. More detailed info provided by UA Curator of Birds, in his blog.

      The curator of the bird collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North alerted the ornithological community to the increasingly dire situation at that museum, after Alaska Governor Dunleavy announced a 41% budget cut to the university (including the museum). That was phase one (the current fiscal year) of the bloodletting.

      On Friday, 26 July 2019, the governor proposed a phase two for the next fiscal year that would completely cut the state appropriation to the museum and to all of the university’s annual investments in research.

      Obviously, these drastic cuts would cripple the bird collection or even shut it down entirely.

      Details in the full article.

      RWD-BK-and-DDG-2005.jpg

       

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    7. MBTA incidental take situation worsens; formal regulation to be proposed

      Author: Ornithological Council

      UPDATE JULY 2019:

      The draft regulation that would codify the "Jorjani M-Opinion" stating that the MBTA dos not cover incidental take was apparently been circulated in early July to other federal agencies for comment. This is a standard process for pending regulations pertaining to matters that impact those agencies, or for which those agencies have shared legal authority (which is the case with most natural resource laws). The agencies were given only 15 days to respond, which is an incredibly short period of time - far shorter than is the norm.

      It is not known if the draft was also circulated to the state agencies (also standard practice; the states share responsibility and authority for protection of migratory birds). The OC is attempting to ascertain if the state agencies have been asked for their input yet. It is anticipated that the USFWS will face substantial push-back from the states, or many of them. In fact, one of the two lawsuits against the underlying M-Opinion was filed by a group of State Attorneys General. Both lawsuits - the case filed by the states and another filed by a group of NGOs - are still pending in the Southern District of New York. It was thought that the USFWS would not publish the proposed regulation for public comment until that case was resolved because if the decision is unfavorable to the USFWS (i.e., strikes down the M-Opinion), the new regulation would either be moot in its entirety or perhaps have to be re-written in accordance with the court decision.

       

       

       

       

       

       

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    8. USDA increases suppression of scientific information

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture has now added to existing restraints on the suppression of scientific research conducted and published by scientists employed by the U.S. government.

      UPDATE 14 May 2019: Per the Washington Post (10 May) "The Agriculture Department has dropped its demand that staff scientists label peer-reviewed research as “preliminary,” after angry protests followed a Washington Post story disclosing the policy." See more details, below.

       

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    9. MBTA permits and the shutdown

      Author: Ornithological Council

      This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including OrnithologyExchange and the Ornithological Council.

      Under federal regulation, you are authorized to continue doing the work for which you have been issued an MBTA permit after that permit expires IF you have applied for renewal at least 30 days prior to the permit expiration date. Continue reading for important detail.

      Update 30 Jan 2019 on BIRD BANDING PERMITS: We are advised by the BBL that the backlog of work awaiting them upon return from the shutdown return is daunting. Permit renewals were the #1 priority for the BBL permit office. The BBL staff has completed that task for the permits that expired in December/January and should have the February permits (that we have received) renewed before the end of the week. Any bander with a permit that expires in February or March should request renewal before Feb. 15 in case of a second shutdown. The BBL is turning our attention to the other permit related requests and will plow through that backlog as fast as week can, prioritizing those banding activities that are planned to start within the next month or so. They should be caught up with the band order requests by early next week. Operationally, the banding community should not experience many problems for ongoing operations as a result of the shutdown. They should be caught up before the activities for the 2019 field season crank up in May/June unless they experience another shutdown in mid-February.

       

       

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    10. Thinking of using SUA to study birds in the U.S.? Read this first!

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The Airborne Hunting Act applies to "any contrivance used for flight in the air" and prohibits "harassment" which is defined as "disturb, worry, molest, rally, concentrate, harry, chase, drive, herd, or torment." Does this mean that ornithologists can't use small unmanned aircraft (SUA) to study birds? IF YOU HAVE APPLIED FOR A STATE PERMIT TO USE DRONES (A STAND-ALONE PERMIT OR AS PART OF YOUR STATE SCIENTIFIC COLLECTING PERMIT, PLEASE CONTACT THE ORNITHOLOGICAL COUNCIL. We want to hear about your experience, particularly if you were NOT working collaboratively with a state or federal agency. UPDATE 27 March 2018: A PowerPoint explaining all U.S. laws that pertain to the use of drones to study wildlife has been posted on BIRDNET.

      UPDATE JAN 2019: AS A RESULT OF THE ORNITHOLOGICAL COUNCIL'S EFFORTS, THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE WILL BE ISSUING A NEW REGULATION  - PROBABLY IN THE THIRD QUARTER OF 2019 - TO ALLOW THE USE OF DRONES TO STUDY BIRDS. Of course, as the shutdown drags on, the work needed to develop this new regulation will be delayed.

       

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      • 7,092 views
    11. OC to ask DOI to exempt MBTA permits program from shutdown

      Author: Ellen Paul

      The MBTA permits program has a funding source independent of federal appropriations and should be exempted from the shutdown.

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      • 566 views
    12. Join/renew your society membership(s) today!

      Your ornithological societies need your support if they are to continue providing the services that help you pursue your research and your careers. They provide journals to publish your research, grants to help fund your research, travel awards to help you attend professional meetings. They provide mentorships and academic and professional opportunities. They support the Ornithological Council, OrnithologyExchange, and myriad activities for ornithologists.

      How do you join or renew your membership?

       

       

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      • 3,102 views
    13. That time of year again: The Annual Ornithological Council Pledge Break

      What is the Ornithological Council and why should you support it?

       

      The Ornithological Council is a great resource for ornithologists. We help researchers navigate the permit maze, address animal welfare concerns, publish the peer-reviewed Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research. The Ornithological Council is the voice of scientific ornithology. Learn more here!

       

      When you join a society or renew your OSNA membership via Membersuite (2019 renewal notices will go out October 8), please remember the OC. Visit the donations page to make a contribution.

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    14. Ornithological Council seeking papers that assess impact of study techniques

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The  Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research, published by the Ornithological Council, is considered a resource reference by the federal animal welfare agencies and your Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. Help usmailto:ellen.paul@verizon.net to keep it current by making sure we know about your methods papers!

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      • 1,847 views
    15. Senate ratification of migratory bird treaty - it was so much easier back then

      Author: Ornithological Council

      On 29 August 1916, the U.S. Senate ratified the migratory bird treaty with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the protection of migratory birds in Canada and the U.S.

       

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    16. Is the ESA doomed?

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Is the Endangered Species Act endangered? GOP committee leadership getting ready to move a big new bill ...

      Update 23 July 2018: Update 23 July 2018: As of 20 July, this legislation appears to still be in the "discussion draft" stage. The full draft and other information - such as a list of supporters - can be found here. A hearing was held before the full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on 20 July and at that time, the bill was still in draft and had not been introduced.

      The regulatory proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced 19 July (though not yet formally published for public comment) is of at least as much concern, if not more so, as it is far more likely to become law and implemented. Please read the Ornithological Council analysis of this proposed regulatory change.

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      • 1,860 views
    17. New California permitting regulations issued

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Working in California? The new scientific collecting permit regulations have been published. Here's what you need to know.

      • 0 comments
      • 1,163 views
    18. USDA to move forward with bird regulations and reporting requirements for field studies

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Could new Animal Welfare policies and additional burdens be on the horizon?

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      • 2,067 views
    19. First thing we do...let's kill all the science

      Gag orders imposed on federal research agencies. A top nominee asks "“Do we really need government-funded research at all?” At EPA and USDA, all grant and contract funding is on hold. We've been here before (2001-200) and we survived but this time it feels...different...far worse.

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      • 949 views
    20. New DOI Policy steers grants to Administration priorities

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Ornithologists who want Dept of interior grants may want to consider digging for oil. Dept of Interior grants are now subject to political scrutiny and will be used only to fund Admin-friendly projects.

      • 0 comments
      • 1,204 views
    21. BIRDNET- new, improved...and essential for ornithologists

      Author: Ornithological Council

      Announcing the new and improved BIRDNET. Lots of great, updated content and key resources for ornithologists Come visit!

      • 0 comments
      • 2,632 views
    22. DOI green lights preventable mass avian mortality

      Author: Ornithological Council

      It's official. No more prosecutions for incidental take of birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The *(&)*& Admin wastes 41 pages explaining why it won't do what it was never going to do anyway...only a matter of time before they deny that this mortality even occurs.

       

      Update 29 Dec - Federal appellate court (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) ruled on 27 Dec 2017 in a case pertaining to incidental take of endangered sea turtles and migratory birds by long lining in the swordfish industry that the MBTA *is* a strict liability statute - in other words, that it would apply to incidental take. The score now stands 3-3 as to the federal appellate courts but none of this affects the new DOI policy, which simply means that the Administration will file no new cases pertaining to incidental take. It is hoped that the DOI will not ask the Supreme Court to review this case.

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      • 5,013 views
    23. Serious threat to Migratory Bird Treaty Act

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The oil and gas industries and others would have a complete pass for the incidental take of birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act should the SECURE American Energy Act (H.R. 4239) become law.

       

      SEC. 207. CLARIFICATION REGARDING LIABILITY UNDER MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY ACT. Section 6 of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 707) is amended by adding at the end of the following: ‘‘(e) This Act shall not be construed to prohibit any activity proscribed by section 2 of this Act that is accidental or incidental to the presence or operation of an otherwise lawful activity.’’.

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    24. YOU DID IT! TUITION REMISSION WILL NOT BE TAXED!

      Author: Ornithological Council

      GOOD NEWS: From the Chronicle on Higher Education, 12/14:

       

      A legislative provision that would have effectively taxed tuition waivers used by graduate students to offset their educational costs will not be in the final tax package in Congress, Bloomberg reports. A House-Senate conference committee met on Wednesday to discuss the compromise bill, which Republican leaders hope to put on President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.

       

      From Inside Higher Ed:
      Senate and House negotiators meeting this week to craft compromise tax-reform legislation plan to exclude from a final bill some controversial proposals affecting students and colleges, according to multiple reports.
      Lawmakers from the two chambers of Congress agreed to drop provisions that would treat graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and repeal student loan interest deductions. Both provisions were included in House tax legislation passed last month but left out of a bill that narrowly cleared the Senate Dec. 2.

       

      Also said to be OUT OF THE FINAL BILL: the elimination of student loan interest deductions

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      • 2,325 views
    25. Endangered Species Act legislation moving through House

      Author: Ornithological Council

      The GOP-led House of Representatives is leading attacks on the Endangered Species Act. Get ready to contact your members of Congress.

       

       

       

      UPDATE 29 Sept: Another anti-ESA bill has been introduced. Read more here.

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      • 2,280 views
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