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USFWS releases proposed rule for eagle permits


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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its proposal for changes to its process for issuing permits for the incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The agency first announced its plans to streamline the permitting process in September 2021. 

The USFWS also published rules regarding eagle incidental take in 2009, revising them in 2016.

The proposed rule would create general permits for four activities: wind-energy generation projects, power line infrastructure, disturbance of breeding bald eagles, and bald eagle nest take. Those whose activities fall into one of those categories would be required to register with the USFWS and self-certify compliance with permit conditions. Individual permits will be available for any project that does not qualify for one of the proposed general permits.

According to the USFWS, bald eagle populations have continued to grow in recent years, leading to increasing interactions with human activities and infrastructure and there a higher demand for permits authorizing the disturbance take and nest take of bald eagles. The permitting process currently in use places an extensive administrative burden on the public and the agency. A goal of the agency’s 2016 rule was to increase compliance and improve consistency and efficiency relating to permitting golden eagle take at wind-energy projects. However, although participation in the permit program by wind energy projects has increased since 2016, it is well below the agency’s expectations and there is continued take golden eagles that is not being offset be conservation actions.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits any take of bald eagles and golden eagles, except as permitted by federal regulations. Pursuant to regulations, “take” is defined as to pursue, shoot, shoot at, kill, capture, trap, molest, or disturb (50 CFR 22.3). Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to issue regulations that permit the taking of eagles for various purposes, as long as such take is compatible with the preservation of the eagle.

The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on September 30, 2022, opening a 60-day public comment period until November 29, 2022.

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Press Release from USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Improvements To Incidental Take Permit Process for Bald and Golden Eagles 

September 29, 2022

Contact: Vanessa Kauffman (703-358-2138, vanessa_kauffman@fws.gov) 

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing improvements for how it processes permits for the incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The bald eagle’s recovery is one of the United States’ most important wildlife conservation success stories, yet the future of golden eagle populations remains uncertain. Under federal law, the Service must ensure that regulations for eagle permits are consistent with the goal of maintaining stable or increasing eagle populations. 

“Preservation of bald and golden eagles is a key responsibility for the Service,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “This proposed rule is part of an open and transparent process where we can engage the public in a collaborative effort to help us conserve bald and golden eagles, while also creating a process to provide multiple pathways to obtain a permit.” 

Human development and infrastructure continue to expand in the United States and at the same time, bald eagle populations are growing throughout their range. The Service’s purpose in proposing amendments to the permit process is to encourage more project proponents that may have an impact on eagles to obtain a permit and implement mitigation measures. This will improve the conservation of both bald eagles and golden eagles, incentivizing more projects to be in compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) and implement mitigation measures. 

The Service is proposing to create general permits for four activities under current regulations: wind-energy generation projects, power line infrastructure, disturbance of breeding bald eagles, and bald eagle nest take. Each general permit outlines eligibility criteria and mitigation requirements to avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts to eagles. Eligible activities would obtain a general permit by registering with the Service and certifying compliance with permit conditions without review by the Service. In addition, the Service is proposing to improve the specific permit process. Specific, or individual, permits require applicants to submit an application that is reviewed by the Service, which then works with the applicant to develop mitigation measures appropriate to the project. Any project that does not qualify for one of the proposed general permits would still be able to apply for a specific permit. 

The Eagle Act prohibits the harm and possession of bald and golden eagles and their parts, nests or eggs, except pursuant to federal regulations. The Eagle Act also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations to permit the taking of eagles for various purposes, provided the taking is compatible with the preservation of the bald eagle and the golden eagle. 

Permits for the incidental, or unintentional, take of eagles were first established in 2009 and then revised in 2016 to authorize incidental take of bald eagles and golden eagles that results from a broad spectrum of activities, such as utility infrastructure, energy development, residential and commercial construction and resource recovery. 

On Sept. 14, 2021, the Service published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input from Tribal governments, the public and the regulated community on potential approaches for further expediting and simplifying the permit process authorizing incidental take of eagles. The Service is now publishing a proposed rule and draft environmental assessment with approaches to improve the eagle incidental take permitting program to make the permitting process more efficient and effective. Public input received through the ANPR process was considered in developing this proposal. 

The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on September 30, 2022, opening a 60-day public comment period until November 29, 2022. 

The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0023 and will include details on how to submit your comments. We will not accept hand-delivered, emailed or faxed comments. We will post all comments on https://www.regulations.gov.

More information can be found online at: https://www.fws.gov/program/eagle-management.

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