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COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: USFWS revising rules for exhibiting migratory birds

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to update its regulation regarding the exhibition of migratory birds and eagles. Currently, the agency regulates the exhibition of migratory birds under a Special Purpose Possession Live permit (through FWS Form 3–200–10c, issued under 50 CFR 21.95) and the exhibition of bald eagles and golden eagles under an Eagle Exhibition Live permit (through FWS Form 3–200–14, issued under 50 CFR 22.50)

The USFWS is proposing to issue new migratory bird exhibition regulations to authorize possession of live, non-releasable or captive-bred migratory birds for use in teaching people about migratory bird conservation and ecology, and to revise the regulations authorizing eagle exhibition.

Earlier this year, the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection issued a new rule, regulating the care of birds under the Animal Welfare Act. The USFWS, in the new and revised exhibition regulations, is seeking “to prevent conflicting regulations and minimize regulatory burden to exhibitors,” according to the agency’s Federal Register notice.

The USFWS is considering continuing to regulate the movement of migratory birds from the wild to exhibition, with the care of exhibition birds primarily regulated by USDA under the Animal Welfare Act, through a mechanism called a regulatory authorization. Regulatory authorizations are regulations that establish eligibility criteria and conditions for the take or possession of migratory birds by an entity without requiring a permit to conduct those activities.

Under the regulatory authorization, a permit from USFWS would not be required to exhibit migratory birds for AWA license holders. If an AWA license was not required, then the USFWS would require an exhibition permit for migratory birds and eagles.

The USFWS is requesting feedback on several specific questions to assist it in developing its new and revised regulations, as summarized below. For the full questions and additional context, please read the notice from the agency here.

Question 1. What regulatory authorization conditions should the USFWS require in addition to AWA license conditions? (e.g., “migratory birds may not be handled by the general public” or “migratory birds may be held but not otherwise touched by the general public.”)

Question 2. The USFWS is seeking estimates of how many exhibitors are not likely to be required to or hold an AWA license. For these exhibitors, should the USFWS continue using special purpose permits for migratory birds or promulgate a new regulation for migratory bird exhibition. Additionally, should the USFWS continue to have separate permits for migratory birds and eagles, or combine exhibition authorization for migratory birds and eagles into a single permit?

Question 3. Should the USFWS continue the requirement that the transfer of any wild bird to exhibition must be approved by the USFWS prior to transfer?

Question 4. The USFWS is considering being more restrictive in ensuring wild birds approved for exhibition are suitable for long-term captivity. Is this an appropriate role for the USFWS?  How should the USFWS design the information requested and review of transfer requests to ensure birds are suitable for exhibition use without being unduly burdensome to exhibitors or the USFWS?

Question 5. Should there be restrictions on the compensation that can be received for exhibition, and if so, under what circumstances and conditions?

Question 6. Should the breeding of exhibition birds be authorized, and if so, under what circumstances and conditions?

Question 7. Exhibition activities are occasionally conducted by those who hold migratory birds under other permit types, such as falconry, raptor propagation, and others. For circumstances where exhibition is not the primary use of the migratory bird, the USFWS is considering the following three approaches. (1) For State-licensed falconers, a regulatory authorization where no permit is required for State-licensed falconers who receive less than a set amount in compensation per calendar year for exhibition programs ( e.g., $1,000). (2) For falconry schools, if a falconry school holds an AWA license, then an MBTA exhibition permit is not required. If the falconry school does not hold an AWA license, an MBTA exhibition permit is required. (3) For other MBTA permittees who conduct exhibition activities, but exhibition is not the primary use of the migratory bird, the following would apply: If the permittee holds an AWA license for exhibition, then an MBTA exhibition permit is not required. If the permittee does not qualify for an AWA license, exhibition authorization can be added to the existing MBTA permit ( e.g., raptor propagation, waterfowl sale and disposal, etc.). Do the three approaches described above make sense for those unique use cases? Are there other unique cases we have not considered?

Question 8. Should the USFWS change practice and allow marked, individual migratory birds to be held under multiple permits? (i.e., a banded raptor could be authorized for falconry, raptor propagation, and exhibition)

Comments are due by July 3.

In 2010, the USFWS proposed new regulations for the possession and use of migratory birds in educational programs and exhibits, but that regulation was never finalized. Read the Ornithological Council’s comments on the 2010 proposal here.

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