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  • Happy New Year! Apply for your permits today!

    Laura Bies
    • Author: Laura Bies

      If you haven’t secured the necessary permits for the upcoming field season, do so today!

    Field season is right around the corner. If you haven't already applied for your permits/renewals, you should do so right away! The OC is hearing that many permit applications and renewals - both state and federal - are taking longer than they used to, so please plan accordingly!

    It can take up to 90 days to obtain a permit - longer if the permit examiner has questions or concerns, or if the office is dealing with backlogs and delays (and many are right now!). If you are applying to work on an endangered species, allow six months because the law requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on all permits to "take" all species listed as endangered (but not threatened); that notice-and-comment process can take in excess of six months.

    And don't forget your state permits. Most states use the term “scientific collecting” to mean any research activity that involves capture and handling. Don't assume that because your research does not involve lethal take, you don't need a scientific collecting permit. In most states, you will need a state permit, although one or two states have some exceptions for banding permits.

    If you have questions or need help with permits, check out BIRDNET and contact the Ornithological Counc



    1. Don't assume that you know if a species is protected. The MBTA list includes over 1,000 bird species, and dozens are listed as threatened or endangered. ALWAYS CHECK THE MBTA AND ESA LISTS.

    2. You need a federal scientific collecting permit for every activity that involves capture or handling of a bird protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act other than capture and marking with bands, radio-transmitters, geolocators, patagial tags, neck rings, or other auxiliary markers that are approved by the USGS Bird Banding Lab. If you intend to implant a transmitter (other than subcutaneously), you will need a scientific collecting permit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and most state agencies use the term "scientific collecting" to encompass all research activities, unlike scientists, for whom that term connotes permanent removal of an animal from the wild.

    3. You can collect blood and feather samples under a banding permit ONLY if the permit expressly authorizes this activity and ONLY if you are also marking the bird. If you are not marking the bird, you must have a scientific collecting permit. If you wish to collect blood and feather samples under your banding permit, you must request that authority when you file your application. It is not automatically allowed under a banding permit.

    4. Make your requests clear and simple. State exactly what you are seeking permission to do before you go into more detail about the project.

    5. Remember that for MBTA permits, you are allowed by law to continue the permitted activities if you have applied for renewal at least 30 days prior to the expiration date (and the permit has not been revoked or suspended). However, please note that the expired permit does not authorize any new projects that might be included in your renewal application. You must have the renewed permit in hand before you can begin any new projects that were not listed on the expired permit.

    6. Do all you can to be sure your permit covers all the activities that your research project will entail. Having to apply for amendments just increases the workload and your expenses - and slows things down for you and everyone else . For instance, do you anticipate bringing birds into captivity to study in the lab? Be sure you state what you plan to do with the birds when the research is completed. If you don’t plan to release them (or your IACUC won’t approve a protocol that entails release) make sure the permit application asks for authority to keep the birds after the research is completed, or give the birds to a zoo, other researcher, or euthanize the birds and give the carcasses to a museum or teaching collection.

    7. If you plan to work on federal land (such as National Wildlife Refuges, national parks, Forest Service or BLM property), be sure to determine if you need a permit or other authorization. 

    8. Under some circumstances, you may need to contact the USFWS to determine if you need an ESA permit, even if you are not studying an ESA species. If you will use non-selective capture techniques ( such as mist nets or rocket nets, for instance) or using other techniques such as predator playback or nest searching in an area where a federally-listed species is known to occur and within the habitats where it occurs, then you should communicate with the endangered species office. They will determine if you will need an endangered species “Section 10” (incidental take) permit. This would be true for all endangered Species, not just listed bird species. If the endangered Species office determines that your activity is not likely to impact a listed species in the project area, then you should obtain a written determination for your records. It is advisable to contact the endangered Species office before applying for a Section 10 permit; provide as much detail as possible about your project so they can make this determination.

    Finally - READ YOUR PERMITS WHEN YOU RECEIVE THEM! Make sure they allow you to do what you need to do. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

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