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Laura Bies

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  1. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will increase critical habitat designated for Northern Spotted Owls under the Endangered Species Act to approximately 9.4 million acres. The final rule revokes a prior rule issued during the final days of the previous administration, which excluded 3.4 million acres from the 9.6 million acres of owl habitat designated in 2012, and instead exclude only 204,294 acres from the 2012 designation—184,133 acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered land in Oregon and about 20,000 acres of American Indian lands. The agency announced their intention to revise the previous administration’s designation in July. The rule will go into effect on Dec. 10. ***** U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release November 9, 2021 Contact: Jodie Delavan, jodie_delavan@fws.gov, 503/231-6984 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Revision of Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat PORTLAND, OR – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a revised designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the northern spotted owl. After a thorough review of scientific and commercial information and evaluation of public comments received on the proposed rule, we are withdrawing the January 15, 2021 rule which would have excluded 3.4 million acres of designated critical habitat through section 4(b)(2) of the ESA. This final rule excludes 204,294 acres of the 9.6 million acres of critical habitat, which is approximately 2% of the 2012 northern spotted owl designation. This action will help conserve and recover spotted owls by identifying habitat needed for recovery of northern spotted owls in the long-term. Additionally, active management of forests and invasive barred owl populations to make forest ecosystems healthier and more resilient to disease, insect outbreaks and the effects of climate change, such as increased frequency of droughts and catastrophic wildfires, will be vital. “The importance of maintaining high quality habitat for northern spotted owls cannot be overstated in light of the challenges we’re facing with climate change and increasing competition from the invasive barred owl,” said Robyn Thorson, Service’s Regional Director for the Columbia-Pacific Northwest. “This designation provides a healthy and resilient landscape for the spotted owl and other native Northwest wildlife while still supporting sustainable timber harvest.” This exclusion includes 184,133 acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered lands allocated for timber harvest in 15 Oregon counties. Their revised Resource Management Plans for western Oregon incorporate key aspects of the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan that will continue to help conserve and improve habitat for the owl over time on these lands. Additionally, approximately 20,000 acres of Indian lands are included in the exclusion. These are lands recently transferred under the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act to the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. The northern spotted owl is protected as a threatened species under the ESA, and a critical habitat designation identifies those areas that are essential to recovery of the species. The Service found that the 3.4 million acres excluded in the January 15, 2021, revised designation would have left too little habitat to conserve the species, ultimately resulting in the extinction of the northern spotted owl. Critical habitat does not provide additional protections for a species on non-federal lands unless proposed activities involve federal funding or permitting. Critical habitat designations also do not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, reserve, preserve or other conservation area, nor does it allow the government or public to access private lands. The final rule is available online at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/current. For additional information regarding critical habitat and the ESA, click here. ***** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  2. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. Dick Banks, who first promoted the idea of the Ornithological Council, passed away earlier this month at age 90. In 1991, Banks authored “On Forming an Ornithological Council,” which was published in the Auk. “I propose the formation of an Ornithological Council to serve as a voice for the science of ornithologist wherever and whenever the voice of ornithology should be heard in the making of policy decisions,” wrote Banks. “If we do not become actively involved in applying our science in the world we will be relegated to having no effective role in its future,” he concluded. You can read more about Dick and his many accomplishments here. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  3. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The Biden administration announced that it intends to nominate Martha Williams as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams has been serving as Principal Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service since January 20, 202. The nomination will now be considered by the U.S. Senate. ***** DOI Press Release White House Announces Nomination of Martha Williams as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Date: Thursday, October 21, 2021 Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov WASHINGTON —The White House today announced the intent to nominate Martha Williams as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Martha has been serving as Principal Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service since January 20, 2021, exercising the delegable authority of the Director. The nomination will now be considered by the U.S. Senate. “Martha brings with her decades of experience, deep knowledge, and a passion for conservation, wildlife management, and natural resources stewardship,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I look forward to continuing to work with her as the Department carries out its mission to protect America’s most precious resources and as we answer President Biden’s call to action to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend on.” Prior to her appointment, Martha served as the Director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks from 2017 to 2020. Previously, Martha was an Assistant Professor of Law at the Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana where she co-directed the university’s Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic. Martha returns to Interior after serving as Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife between 2011 and 2013, providing counsel to the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Growing up on a farm in Maryland, Martha gained an appreciation for open lands, waters, wildlife, and people. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Montana School of Law. ***** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  4. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will codify its interpretation of the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and propose a system of regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds under prescribed conditions. The agency will hold three public webinars to share information about the rule-making process: Thursday, November 4 at 12 p.m. eastern Monday, November 8 at 3 p.m. eastern Wednesday, November 10 at 1 p.m. eastern All three can be accessed at the following Zoom link: zoomgov.com/j/1616455432?pwd=Y1p2TGxhNDdpWjhGeUFJQ2ZpUlgzdz09 (Meeting ID: 161 645 5432 Passcode: 015695). You can also visit https://www.fws.gov/regulations/mbta/ for more informattion. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  5. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced its intention to delist 23 species due to extinction. Included are 11 bird species that would be delisted under the proposal: Bachman's Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii) Bridled White-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus conspicillatus) Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) Kauai akialoa ( Akialoa stejnegeri ) Kauai nukupuu (Hemignathus hanapepe) Kauai `o`o (Moho braccatus) Large Kauai Thrush (Myadestes myadestinus) Maui Akepa (Loxops coccineus ochraceus) Maui Nukupuu (Hemignathus lucidus affinis) Molokai Creeper (Paroeomyza flammea) Po`ouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma) Additional information about each species, its listing history, and the time since the species' last detection is available in the Federal Register notice here. The USFWS is taking comments on the proposal until November 29. **** USFWS Press Release U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Delisting 23 Species from Endangered Species Act Due to Extinction September 29, 2021 Contact(s): Brian Hires, (703) 358-2191, brian_hires@fws.gov The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove 23 species from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to extinction. Based on rigorous reviews of the best available science for each of these species, the Service has determined these species are extinct, and thus no longer require listing under the ESA. The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. For the species proposed for delisting today, the protections of the ESA came too late, with most either extinct, functionally extinct, or in steep decline at the timing of listing. “With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife. The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly effective at preventing species from going extinct and has also inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as endangered or threatened,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We will continue to ensure that states, Tribes, private landowners, and federal agencies have the tools they need to conserve America’s biodiversity and natural heritage.” These species extinctions highlight the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible. The circumstances of each also underscore how human activity can drive species decline and extinction, by contributing to habitat loss, overuse and the introduction of invasive species and disease. The growing impacts of climate change are anticipated to further exacerbate these threats and their interactions. They also underscore ongoing conservation challenges of the Service. Almost 3 billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970. These extinctions highlight the need to take action to prevent further losses. Stemming this extinction crisis is a central component of the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, a locally led and voluntary, nationwide effort to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. One of the initiative’s goals is to enhance wildlife habitat and improve biodiversity -- to keep species from reaching the point where they are in danger of extinction or are too far gone to save. “The Service is actively engaged with diverse partners across the country to prevent further extinctions, recover listed species and prevent the need for federal protections in the first place,” said Martha Williams, Service Principal Deputy Director. “The Endangered Species Act has been incredibly successful at both preventing extinctions and at inspiring the diverse partnerships needed to meet our growing 21st century conservation challenges.” While protections were provided too late for these 23 species, the ESA has been successful at preventing the extinction of more than 99% of species listed. In total, 54 species have been delisted from the ESA due to recovery, and another 56 species have been downlisted from endangered to threatened. The Service’s current workplan includes planned actions that encompass 60 species for potential downlisting or delisting due to successful recovery efforts. Additionally, numerous species have avoided ESA listing thanks to the collaborative efforts of federal agencies, states, Tribes and private landowners, with the ESA serving as a catalyst for conservation efforts that help protect imperiled species and their habitat. Species being proposed for delisting include the ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman’s warbler, two species of freshwater fishes, eight species of Southeastern freshwater mussels and eleven species from Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands. Ivory-billed woodpecker – Once America’s largest woodpecker, it was listed in 1967 as endangered under the precursor to the ESA, the Endangered Species Preservation Act (ESPA). The last commonly agreed upon sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker was in April 1944 on the Singer Tract in the Tensas River region of northeast Louisiana. Despite decades of extensive survey efforts throughout the southeastern U.S. and Cuba, it has not been relocated. Primary threats leading to its extinction were the loss of mature forest habitat and collection. Bachman’s warbler – As early as 1953, Bachman’s warbler was one of the rarest songbirds in North America. When first listed in 1967 as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the bird had not been seen in the U.S. since 1962. Last documented in Cuba in 1981, there have been no verifiable sightings in that country since then. The loss of mature forest habitat and widespread collection are the primary reasons for its extinction. Eight species of freshwater mussels – Reliant on healthy streams and rivers with clean, reliable water, freshwater mussels are some of the most imperiled species in the U.S., home to more than half of the world’s species of freshwater mussels. Mussels proposed for delisting due to extinction are all located in the Southeast, America’s biodiversity hot spot for freshwater mussels. They are the: flat pigtoe (Mississippi), southern acornshell (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee), stirrupshell (Alabama), upland combshell, (Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee), green-blossom pearly (Tennessee, Virginia), turgid-blossom pearly mussel (Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas), yellow-blossom pearly mussel (Tennessee, Alabama) and the tubercled-blossom pearly mussel(Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, southern Ontario, Canada). Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands – Eleven species from Hawaiʻi and Guam are being proposed for delisting due to extinction, many of which had striking characteristics, such as the long curved beaks of the Kauai akialoa and nukupuʻu, the haunting call of the Kauai `o`o, and the brilliant colors of the Maui akepa and Molokai creeper. Species endemic to islands face a heightened risk of extinction due to their isolation and small geographic ranges. Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands are home to more than 650 species of plants and animals listed under the ESA. This is more than any other state, and most of these species are found nowhere else in the world. San Marcos gambusia – Listed in 1980, this freshwater fish was found in the slow-flowing section of the San Marcos River in Texas. The San Marcos gambusia had a limited historic range of occurrence and has not been found in the wild since 1983. Primary reasons for its extinction include habitat alteration due to groundwater depletion, reduced spring flows, bottom plowing and reduced aquatic vegetation, as well as hybridization with other species of gambusia. Scioto madtom – Listed as endangered in 1975, the Scioto madtom was a fish species found in a small section of the Big Darby Creek, a tributary of the Scioto River, in Ohio. The Scioto madtom was known to hide during the daylight hours under rocks or in vegetation and emerge after dark to forage along the bottom of the stream. Only 18 individuals of the madtom were ever collected with the last confirmed sighting in 1957. The exact cause of the Scioto madtom’s decline is unknown, but was likely due to modification of its habitat from siltation, industrial discharge into waterways and agricultural runoff. [view press release on fws.gov/news to see chart of species] The Service seeks information, data, and comments from the public regarding this proposal to remove these 23 species from the ESA and declare them extinct. The proposed rule will be available in the Federal Register Reading Room on September 29, 2021 at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection using the link found under the Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants section. This will be publishing in the Federal Register on September 30, 2021. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before November 29, 2021. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. **** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  6. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the final rule officially revoking the Trump administration’s regulation that interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as only applying to intentional killing of birds. The agency published a proposed rule in May, indicating their intention to revoke the rule. The Trump administration’s final rule limiting the reach of the MBTA was published January. It codified an interpretation first put forth by the Department of the Interior’s Solicitor's Office in 2017, limiting the scope of the MBTA to intentional killing of birds. The Biden administration has already rescinded that Solicitor’s opinion. The final MBTA revocation rule announced this week will go into effect 60 days after it publishes in the Federal Register on October 4. The USFWS is also soliciting feedback on the development of a new permitting scheme for incidental take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. “We [intend] to gather information necessary to develop a proposed rule to authorize the incidental taking or killing of migratory birds, including determining when, to what extent, and by what means it is consistent with the MBTA,” the agency said in the Federal Register notice. The USFWS is interested in comments regarding whether and how it could authorize incidental take and under what conditions or circumstances. It is considering implementing a permitting system with (1) exceptions to the MBTA’s prohibition on incidental take; (2) general permits for certain activity types; and (3) specific or individual permits. The agency is seeking public comment on the appropriate criteria, such as infrastructure design, beneficial practices, andgeographic features, that it could use to apply these authorizations to various activities. The agency is also considering implementing a conservation fee structure to fund programs to benefit birds, and is soliciting input on whether it should consider a compensatory mitigation approach or a general conservation fee structure, where fees go to a specific, dedicated fund. Any new rule will likely be challenged in court, as previous rules have been. Currently, the federal appellate courts are split on the appropriate interpretation of the MBTA and whether it should apply to incidental take. That uncertainty has led some supporters of an interpretation that prohibits incidental take tp pursue a legislative fix. In July, Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Cal.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced The Migratory Bird Protection Act, which affirms that coverage of the MBTA extends to incidental take, and also aims to create more certainty for business and incentives for innovation to protect birds. The Ornithological Council has commented extensively on the issue of incidental take under the MBTA and has encouraged the development of a permit system for incidental take, as have other scientific societies and conservation organizations. The ANPR requesting public comment will be published in the Federal Register on October 4, opening a 60-day public comment period (to read the notice and comment, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2021-0105). About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  7. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. Ornithological Council Executive Director Laura Bies has been selected to participate in a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s workshop planning committee for a workshop to be held in early 2022 on “Discussing and Understanding Animal Welfare Challenges in Research and Education on Wildlife, Non-Model Animal Species, and Biodiversity.” The workshop will discuss the animal welfare challenges inherent in wildlife research, and will help inform the next edition of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s Guide for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, one of the primary guidance documents for researcher involving animals. That revision is being led by a new ILAR Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research. Dr. William Bowerman, current Vice Chair of the Ornithological Council, is one of 13 members of that standing committee, which is exploring expanding the current guidelines for humane care and use of animals both in traditional “brick-and-mortar” laboratory animal facilities and beyond (e.g., field laboratories and field stations, and terrestrial and aquatic settings under both captive and natural conditions). The workshop will be held virtually on February 9-10 and will include presentations and panel discussions exploring topics and questions such as: • enhancing veterinary and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) expertise on the health and welfare of wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species; •ways to improve the development and evaluation of IACUC protocols on research studies involving wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species interactions in captive and diverse natural environmental settings; • the bioethics associated with fieldwork practices and unique considerations for wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species; • the regulatory and management challenges associated with wildlife research; and • the opportunities for enhancing collaborations between IACUCs and researchers studying wildlife; More information about the workshop is available here. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  8. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting public input regarding potential changes to their policy for permitting the incidental take of bald and golden eagles. 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 USFWS published rules regarding eagle incidental take in 2009 and revised them in 2016. The potential changes announced this week aim to streamline the current permitting framework. The agency is soliciting comments on how best to achieve this aim, and is specifically interested in feedback that answers several questions posed in the Federal Register notice: 1. Are there specific protocols, processes, requirements, or other aspects of the current permitting process for incidental take of eagles that hinder permit application, processing, or implementation? 2. What additional guidance, protocols, analyses, tools, or other efficiencies could the Service develop that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for, implementing, and conducting monitoring associated with long-term permits for incidental take of eagles under existing regulations? What are the estimated costs of the suggested additional efficiencies, and how do those costs compare to industry’s current practices? 3. What targeted revisions could be made to existing regulations consistent with the overall permitting framework and PEIS that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and processing long-term permits for incidental take of eagles? 4. Are there potential new regulatory approaches to authorizing incidental take under the Eagle Act, particularly for projects that can be shown in advance to have minimal impacts on eagles, that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and operating under long-term permits for incidental take of eagles? Comments will be accepted for until Oct. 29 and can be submitted here. ****** USFWS Press Release Public Comments Sought by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Improving Incidental Take Permit Process for Bald and Golden Eagles September 13, 2021 Contact(s): Vanessa Kauffman (703-358-2138, vanessa_kauffman@fws.gov) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking public input on potential approaches to improve the permitting of incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The bald eagle’s recovery is one of the United States’ most important wildlife conservation success stories. The Service’s intent for both bald and golden eagles is to ensure that the regulations for these permits are consistent with the goal of maintaining stable or increasing breeding populations. “As the nation moves to build back better, the Service and the regulated community share an interest in introducing greater efficiency and predictability into the eagle incidental take permitting process, while ensuring stable or increasing breeding populations of bald and golden eagles,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon A. Estenoz. “We are soliciting public input and feedback on potential approaches to make the permitting process more effective and efficient.” 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 result of these trends is an increasing number of interactions between eagles and industrial infrastructure and a corresponding need for the Service to process more applications for incidental take of eagles. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (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 or the golden eagle. Permits for the incidental, or unintentional, take of eagles were first established in 2009 and revised in 2016 to authorize incidental take of bald and golden eagles that results from a broad spectrum of activities, such as utility infrastructure, energy development, residential and commercial construction and resource recovery. The Service is now publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit public input and feedback on potential approaches to improve permitting of incidental take of eagles. The ANPR will publish in the Federal Register on September 14, 2021, opening a 45-day public comment period until October 29, 2021. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0023 and will include details on how to submit your comments. The ANPR seeks public comment on a number of approaches that could potentially reinforce a more streamlined permitting framework. We seek a variety of information in a number of areas including, but not limited to: What additional guidance, tools or other efficiencies could the Service develop that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and implementing long-term eagle incidental take permits under existing regulations? Are there potential new regulatory approaches to authorizing incidental take under the Eagle Act, particularly for projects that can be shown in advance to confer minimal impacts to eagles, that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and operating under long-term eagle incidental take permits? A complete list of details the Service is seeking can be found in the notice. We will not accept hand-delivered, emailed or faxed comments. We will post all comments on https://www.regulations.gov. The notice also advises the public that the Service may, as a result of public input, prepare a draft environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. More information can be found online at: https://www.fws.gov/birds/management/managed-species/eagle-management.php ****** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  9. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The Ornithological Council recently reached out to the Department of the Interior, asking it to reconsider its 2019 ban on the use of drones. The letter also asks the department to move forward with regulations regarding the use of drones for wildlife research. In late 2017, the Ornithological Council asked the Office of the Solicitor to advise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, and the state agencies that the use of drones for wildlife research is not subject to the Airborne Hunting Act. It also asked that if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones to study wildlife is subject to the AHA, then the Solicitor should address the need for federal permits because there are few, if any, state laws pertaining to drone use for wildlife research and monitoring. Then, in early 2018, the OC filed a petition for rulemaking, asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue permits for the use of drones to study wildlife. That petition for rulemaking proposed the changes necessary for the USFWS to issue permits under the AHA, since, if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones for wildlife research is covered by the AHA, permits would be needed Given that Interior has not yet taken action on that petition, this week’s letter asks them to move forward and also addresses the ban on the use of drones by Interior employees put in place in 2019. Read the OC’s letter here. More background on the use of drones to research birds is available here. The OC’s fact sheet on drones is available here.
  10. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that it is proposing to list Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, citing climate change as the main threat to the species. While Emperor Penguin populations are currently robust, the species is in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future across a significant portion of its range, according to USFWS. The species rely on sea ice to form breeding colonies, forage for food and avoid predation. As climate change progresses, melting sea ice will threatened Emperor Penguin's survival. There are currently about 61 breeding colonies along Antarctica’s coast, with a total population estimated to be between 270,000 - 280,000 breeding pairs or 625,000 - 650,000 individual birds. The USFWS projects that the population will decrease anywhere from 26 % to 47% by 2050, brining the total population down to between 185,000 and 132,500 breeding pairs. USFWS will take public comments on the proposal until Oct. 3. **** USFWS Press Release U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List the Emperor Penguin as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act August 3, 2021 Contact(s): Christina Meister, Christina_Meister@fws.gov, (703) 358-2284 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the emperor penguin, a flightless seabird endemic to Antarctica, as threatened with a 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Climate change, specifically melting sea ice, is the primary threat to the species. Emperor penguins need sea ice to form breeding colonies, forage for food and avoid predation. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, the Earth’s temperature will continue to increase, causing large patches of sea ice to melt. The melting ice could affect a variety of species, including emperor penguins, who rely on sea ice for survival. “The Service uses the best available science to propose ESA listing determinations,” said Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director of the Service. “Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world. The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the emperor penguin.” While emperor penguin populations are currently robust, the species is in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future in a significant portion of its range. There are approximately 61 breeding colonies along the coastline of Antarctica and the species’ population size is estimated to be between 270,000 - 280,000 breeding pairs or 625,000 - 650,000 individual birds. However, according to the best available science, their global population size will likely decrease between 26 percent (to approximately 185,000 breeding pairs) and 47 percent (to approximately 132,500 breeding pairs) by 2050 under low and high carbon emissions scenarios, respectively. The estimated decrease in population size is not equal across Antarctica. The Ross and Weddell Seas are strongholds for the species, and populations in these areas will most likely remain stable. However, emperor penguin colonies within the Indian Ocean, Western Pacific Ocean, and Bellingshausen Sea and Amundsen Sea sectors are projected to decline by over 90 percent due to melting sea ice. While this estimated decline is concerning, the proposal to list the emperor penguin as threatened under the ESA comes while there is still time to prevent the species from becoming endangered throughout a significant portion of its range. Section 4(d) of the ESA allows the Service to issue regulations that are necessary to conserve imperiled species. Accordingly, the Service is proposing a 4(d) rule for the emperor penguin that would provide specific exceptions for any activity that is permitted by the National Science Foundation under the Antarctic Conservation Act. The proposed 4(d) rule would also provide exceptions for interstate commerce from public institutions to other public institutions, specifically museums, zoological parks and scientific institutions; emergency circumstances; salvaging a specimen; or for law enforcement purposes. The Service may also issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities, such as scientific research or projects that enhance the survival of the species in the wild. The emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species. Adults may weigh up to 88 pounds and are as tall as 45 inches. Males and females are similar in plumage and size, although males are slightly larger than females. Females lay one egg each breeding season, which males incubate on their feet for two months while females go to sea to feed. Once the egg hatches, males and females alternate between chick rearing duties and food gathering until the chick can regulate its temperature, and then both adults forage simultaneously to provide enough food for their growing chick. Chicks depart the colony after about 150 days, returning again at four years of age to breed for the first time at age five. The proposed rule to list the emperor penguin as threatened under the ESA will publish in the Federal Register on August 4, 2021, opening a 60-day public comment period. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by October 3, 2021. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2021-0043. The Service uses the best available science to make ESA listing determinations and is required to list imperiled species as endangered or threatened regardless of their country of origin. The ESA provides numerous benefits to foreign species, primarily by prohibiting activities such as import, export, take, interstate commerce and foreign commerce. By regulating these activities, the United States helps conserve imperiled species across the world. *** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  11. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Cal.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced The Migratory Bird Protection Act today. The bill affirms that coverage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act extends to incidental take, and also aims to create more certainty for business and incentives for innovation to protect birds. The Trump administration completed a rule-making limiting the MBTA to intentional take of migratory birds during its final days in office. The Biden administration has revoked that rule and begun a new rule-making process regarding incidental take. The bill calls on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a permitting system for incidental take. It also establishes a new mitigation fee to be imposed on unavoidable impacts on birds, with the proceeds going to fund bird conservation programs. Read Reps. Lowenthal and Fitzpatrick’s press release. Read Audubon’s press release. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  12. In September, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a proposed policy document, “Research Involving Free-living Wild Species In Their Natural Habitat,” to assist research institutions in determining whether an activity involving free-living wild animals in their natural habitat meets the regulatory definition of “field study.” The proposed policy described criteria that research facilities could use to identify activities that are invasive, harmful, or that materially alter animal behavior. The agency has now issued final guidance, in the form of a Tech Note. Under that guidance, activities involving free-living wild animals in their natural habitat that meet the definition of a field study and are therefore exempt from IACUC review include procedures where pain/distress is slight or momentary and does not impact well-being, such as observational studies where no animals are captured or handled and where human presence does not impact animal behavior. Activities involving free-living wild animals in their natural habitat that do not meet the definition of “field study” and are therefore covered under the AWA regulations and require IACUC oversight include: 1. Studies that involve an invasive procedure, such as major operative procedures, intra-cardiac blood collections, arterial/venous cut downs for catheter placement, or surgical implantation of devices 2. Studies that harms an animal, such as instances where: - the animal experiences pain/distress above minimal and slight; - the animal experiences trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort as a result of handling; - the animal experiences death as a result of the work, in a manner that does not meet the regulatory definition of “euthanasia”: or - the animal experiences impaired function such as amputation of a tail/digit used for digging or climbing. 3. Procedures that materially alter the behavior, such as: - the use of hormones or pheromones to change mating or migration patterns for research purposes; - repeated nest/den disturbance during breeding and rearing of young; or - relocation of migratory animals beyond natural migration routes. Read the full policy here. Read the comments submitted by the Ornithological Council on the proposal here.
  13. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it will revise the designation of critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl. The Trump administration published a final rule in January, reducing the owl’s critical habitat in Washington, Oregon, and California from 9.6 million acres to about 6.1 million acres. Implementation of that rule was delayed by the Biden administration when it took office. The new proposal, published on July 20, would instead exclude only 204,797 acres from the 9.6 million acres previously set aside. The USFWS noted that, “the large additional exclusions made in the January Exclusions Rule were premised on inaccurate assumptions about the status of the owl and its habitat needs particularly in relation to barred owls.” In addition, that rule “undermined the biological redundancy of the critical habitat network by excluding large areas of critical habitat across the designation and did not address the ability of the remaining units and subunits to function in that network.” The USFWS will accept comments on its proposal until September 20. Learn more about the proposal and submit comments here. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  14. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 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. On July 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the designation of 649,066 acres of critical habitat across 13 states for the Rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa). The critical habitat proposal includes occupied migration and wintering areas of Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. About 40% of the acres overlap with existing critical habitat for other threatened and endangered species. The Rufa Red Knot was listed as a threatened species in 2015 and a draft recovery plan was released earlier this year. Comments will be accepted on the proposal until September 13. On August 18, 2021, the USFWS will hold a virtual public informational meeting from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Eastern Time, followed by a virtual public hearing from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., Eastern Time. Details about how to submit comments or attend the meeting and hearing can be found here. Read the Federal Register notice here. Learn more about the USFWS’ efforts regarding the Rufa Red Knot here. About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
  15. This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 10 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. Registered users of USFWS's ePermits system should have received an email recently, letting them know that the way they login to the ePermits system is changing. All ePermits users are now required to set up a login.gov account, in addition to their account with ePermits (note: those accounts should both use the same email address). Instructions from USFWS about how to access your ePermits account are below. As always, members of all OC societies should feel free to contact the OC with permitting questions or problems. We're here to help! *** Notice from USFWS: Dear ePermits user, On Tuesday June 29, 2021, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will launch a new, simplified login experience for ePermits users through a partnership with Login.gov, an official service of the U.S. Federal Government. As a result of this transition, all ePermits users will be required to login through Login.gov using an email address. We understand that this change might cause some confusion for ePermits users. For that reason, please review the guidance provided below or the help center article to make sure you have a smooth transition. Step One: Confirm Email Address associated with your ePermits account (DO THIS NOW) Starting on June 29th, all previous ePermits usernames and passwords will no longer be valid. Moving forward, FWS will link your ePermits and Login.gov accounts by verifying that the email address used in each account matches. How can I verify what my email address is for my ePermits account? Log into your ePermits account prior to June 29th. Note: After June 29th, please contact ePermits Support to request or change your account’s associated email address. Click your initials in the top right-hand corner. Select Profile from the drop-down menu. Locate your email address. Step Two: Create a Login.gov Account (Do this before next login) Since you have created an ePermits account, you will also need to create a Login.gov account. If you do not have a Login.gov account, please follow the directions below. If you have a Login.gov account, please make sure the email address used for Login.gov matches your ePermits account. Instructions for new Login.gov users: Follow these steps to create your Login.gov account. Enter your email address at https://secure.login.gov/sign_ to begin. Note: The email address used during your Login.gov registration must match the one associated with your ePermits account. Click the “Submit” Check your email inbox for a message from Login.gov. Click the “Confirm your email address” button in the message. This will take you back to the Login.gov website. Create your Login.gov password. Set up a second layer of security. As an added layer of protection, Login.gov requires you to set up a second authentication method to keep your account secure. This is referred to as two-factor authentication (2FA). Chose the authentication method that works best for you. Options include: Authentication application Security key PIV or CAC card for federal government employees or military Text message Phone call Backup codes Success! Once you have authenticated, you have created your Login.gov account. For more information, please read Login.gov instructions. Instructions for users with current Login.gov accounts: For those that have an existing Login.gov account, please make sure the email address used in Login.gov matches the one associated with your ePermits account. If the email differs, please follow the instructions below to update your email. Log into your Login.gov account. Select Your Account Select the “add email” Re-enter your account password. Enter your second layer of security code. Check your email for a message from Login.gov. Click the “Confirm your email address” button in the message. This will take you back to the Login.gov website. Success! Once you have added an additional email to your Login.gov account. Important Note for Third-Party Business Users Do you submit permit applications on behalf of another companies or individuals? If yes, if you have not already done so, we recommend that you create your own ePermits business account that is separate from the company or individual. Coming soon, ePermits will be able to connect your ePermits account with your client’s businesses/individual account that will allow you to apply on their behalf. Most importantly, this new functionality will allow you and your client to both view applications and permits online. We will post specific details and instructions about this change on the ePermits homepage as soon as it is available. Thank you, USFWS ePermitting Team *** About the Ornithological Council The Ornithological Council is a consortium of 10 scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our 10 member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!
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