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  • USFWS Permit Fees to Increase in Near Future

    Fern Davies
    • Author: Ellen Paul for the Ornithological Council

      But still a bargain ...

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    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divisions that issue permits are in the process of determining a new fee schedule. Under federal law, “A user charge, as described below, will be assessed against each identifiable recipient for special benefits derived from Federal activities beyond those received by the general public.” The White House Office of Management and Budget advises federal agencies that, "user charges will be sufficient to recover the full cost to the Federal Government."


    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last raised permit fees in 2005. Prior to that time, fees had not been increased since 1982. If the previous increase is any indicator, it will likely be late 2014 by the time the proposed fee schedule is published for public comment; the final rule would be issued some time in 2015.


    Under 16 USC §718k, Congress authorized the USFWS to retain all fees collected for federal migratory bird permits to be used for the expenses of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in administering such Federal migratory bird permits. However, these fees are not sufficient to fully fund administration of the program because the permit-issuing offices also handle many permits for which fees are not charged, such as the permits issues to federal, state, and tribal agencies. Therefore, the overall workload exceeds the staffing level that is achievable with permit fees. Thus, even though the USFWS, with Congressional authority, retains the fees for use in issuing and administering permits (at least the Migratory Bird Treaty Act permits), the agency is in need of Congressionally appropriated funds as well. Unfortunately, Congressional appropriations have been flat at best for several years. Overall, funding is insufficient and if the number of applications increases or if staff are on leave, the agency has no budget to add personnel, even on a temporary basis. As a result, backlogs develop. In Region 8, for instance, it can take as long as sixteen months to obtain a scientific collecting permit.


    The Ornithological Council, as the "policy winglet" of the ornithological community, will track developments and keep ornithologists up-to-date via Ornithology Exchange. If you have questions, please contact the Ornithological Council. Please report any undue delay (exceeding 90 days for MBTA; 180 days for ESA and CITES) experienced with permit applications to the Ornithological Council.

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