The American Bird Conservancy continues as an important voice for conservation of all birds. Here’s the latest:
Obama Administration Considering New Options for Conserving Migratory Birds
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced it intends to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of authorizing incidental take of migratory birds. The Federal Register notice is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-26/pdf/2015-12666.pdf. Public comments will be accepted at http://www.regulations.gov until July 27 (Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2014–0067).
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be commended for this initiative; bird lovers across America will now be able to submit comments in support of protecting the migratory birds that enliven their spring and fall seasons,” said Steve Holmer. “There have been great advances in our knowledge for conserving birds, this process can put that information to work and make best management practices, standard practices.”
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), prohibit “take” of migratory birds, endangered and threatened species, and Bald and Golden Eagles. While the ESA and BGEPA provide mechanisms for FWS to regulate, and in some instances authorize, take of endangered and threatened species and Bald and Golden Eagles respectively, at present no such comparable mechanism exists under the MBTA to limit or authorize incidental take by wind power projects or other industries.
The Notice of Intent offers a menu of potential options to establish this authority including permitting entire industries that have known impacts such and oil and gas, communications towers, and powerlines. For each of these examples included in the notice, there are already available technologies that can reduce bird mortality.
The notice reveals FWS is considering building on the voluntary guidance developed for wind energy. FWS is also proposing establishing new authority for incidental take permits for projects or activities not covered in the sector permits. The notice suggests that environmental reviews for migratory birds, endangered species and eagles could be combined into one permitting process.
Several other proposed incidental take authorizations are more problematic and deserve careful consideration. The first of these would grant other federal agencies take authority for their management activities. Under this system, the Bureau of Land Management would for example, have authority to take migratory birds in connection with mines and other developments on public lands. The current system of FWS oversight provides for expert and independent review and a potential check on any misuse of agency management authorities.
The last type of take authorization would rely on development of voluntary guidance for specific industry sectors. The Wind Energy Guidelines are an existing example of this approach, and to date, it has been ineffective at mitigating bird mortality or ensuring proper siting of new developments. ABC recently released a study finding that tens of thousands of turbines have already be sited in sensitive bird habitats.
ABC petitioned FWS in 2011 and again in February 2015 for wind industry regulatory action that would reduce the projected 1.4-2 million bird deaths expected to be caused by the industry when it reaches projected build out levels. A key provision of the ABC petition urged FWS to establish a permitting process that would significantly improve the protection of birds covered by the MBTA and would afford the wind industry a degree of regulatory and legal certainty that cannot be provided in the absence of such a process.
ABC is developing a set of recommendations for this proposed rulemaking and will soon circulate a draft for input from partners and migratory bird experts.
Please review and consider endorsing the following letter to administration officials asking for further attention to the problem of wildlife mortality caused by open pipes. While some progress has been made by federal agencies to raise awareness and remove threatening pipes, more needs to be done to eliminate this threat and make sure it doesn’t keep happening in the future.
To sign on your organization, please use this action link and fill in your information:
Individuals can help by sending letters to the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service using this action link:
June 15, 2015
Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington D.C. 20240
Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington D.C. 20250
Dear Ms. Schneider and Mr. Bonnie,
The undersigned conservation organizations are writing to commend Bureau of Land Management and U.S.D.A. Forest Service wildlife and minerals staff for their efforts to reduce bird mortality caused by vertical pipes, such as mine markers, fence posts, and outhouse vents. Much work remains to be done to remove existing hazards, and long-term policies and procedures still need to be established to prevent this form of bird mortality from continuing to occur on public lands in the future.
Small birds often see the opening of PVC mining claim markers and other pipes as a hollow suitable for nesting. The birds enter the holes only to become trapped because the walls of the pipes do not allow them to extend their wings and fly out and are too smooth to allow them to grapple their way up the sides. Death from dehydration or starvation soon follows.
Fortunately, this threat to birds has been identified and some positive actions are underway to eliminate the problem and meet the respective agencies’ responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Executive Order 13186. This includes the BLM’s creation of a flyer endorsed by partners including American Bird Conservancy and the National Mining Association that will be mailed to mine claim holders alerting them to the problem and urging they replace or remediate hazardous marker. And Forest Service staff are covering open vent pipes on outhouses that were trapping birds.
We would like to encourage BLM and USDA to continue efforts to identify priority areas for pipe removal, and further coordinate stake-pulling events as resources allow. In addition, federal agencies need to develop national policy to mitigate or remove existing open pipes, and to prevent their use in federal projects in the future.
In addition to these important steps, mining claimants need to be held responsible for their stakes through federal regulatory action that will require removal of hazardous markers. And to ensure the problem doesn’t continue, standards can be set for bird-safe and environmentally friendly mining markers.
We therefore have several recommended actions to help carry out and bolster these efforts that we ask the administration to consider:
1. Issuing national policy directives to remove or modify existing pipes, and to delineate standards to prevent use of open pipes in the future.
2. Initiating a federal rulemaking to require that mining claim holders replace pipes that can cause mortality and to require non-hazardous markers on all current and future claims.
3. Dedicate sufficient resources annually to educate mine claim holders, to coordinate and carry out partnership efforts to remove pipes, and to carry out necessary infrastructure improvements on the Public Lands and National Forest Systems.
Thank you for considering these requests.
Alaska Wild Animal Recovery Effort
Alberta Wilderness Association
American Bird Conservancy
Arkansas Audubon Society
Bird Conservation Network
Californians for Western Wilderness
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation
Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage
Clearwater Audubon Society
Coastal Bend Audubon Society
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Dakubetede Environmental Education Programs (DEEP)
Eastern Long Island Audubon Society
Endangered Habitats League
Environmental Solutions LLC
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Facts About Wildlife and Nature Society (FAWNS)
Fort Collins Audubon Society
Friends of California Condors Wild and Free
Friends of the Boundary Mountains
Friends of the Kalmiopsis
Golden Gate Audubon Society
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Illinois Ornithological Society
Kerncrest Audubon Society
Kestrel Land Trust
Kettle Range Conservation Group
Klamath Forest Alliance
Lane County Audubon Society
Laramie Audubon Society
Louisiana Audubon Council
Madrone Audubon Society, Inc.
Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter (MRVAC).
Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society
Pomona Valley Audubon
Prairie Hills Audubon Society
Rocky Mountain Wild
Salem Audubon Society
Skagit Audubon Society
South Florida Wildlands Association
Southern Maryland Audubon Society
Saint Louis Audubon Society
The Tennessee Ornithological Society
Threatened and Endangered Little Applegate Valley (TELAV)
Umpqua Watersheds, Inc.
The Urban Wildlands Group
Virginia Bluebird Society
West Pasco Audubon Society
Whidbey Environmental Action Network
Wildlife Information Center
World Temperate Rainforest Network
Yosemite Area Audubon Society
To sign on your organization, please use this action link and fill in your information:
To be removed from the list, send any message to:
Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy &
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance