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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Substantial Revisions to Its Eagle Take Permit Regulations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would substantially revise the FWS’ regulations regarding the issuance of permits for certain activities involving eagles. The new rule proposes revisions to the FWS’ eagle non-purposeful take permit regulations and eagle nest take regulations. Among other revisions, the proposed rule includes changes to permit issuance criteria and duration, compensatory mitigation standards, and permit application requirements. According to the Federal Register notice, the revisions are intended to add clarity to the eagle permit regulations, improve their implementation, and increase compliance, while providing strong protection for eagles.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) prohibits “take” of bald eagles and golden eagles except pursuant to federal regulations. The Eagle Act allows the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations to authorize the taking of eagles for various purposes.
In 2009, the FWS promulgated regulations that established two permit types for take of eagles and eagle nests.

The proposed rule makes a number of significant changes to the FWS’ eagle conservation and management program. A few of the most notable changes include removing the distinction between standard and programmatic permits and extending the maximum duration of permits from five years to 30 years; amending the “preservation standard” to account for conservation efforts at the local scale; applying the “practicability standard” to all permits; and clarifying requirements for compensatory mitigation.

As explained in the Federal Register notice, bald eagle populations have continued to increase throughout the U.S., increasing the potential need for permits for activities that may disturb, injure, or kill bald eagles. At the same time, golden eagle populations are potentially declining, heightening the challenge of permitting incidental take of this species for otherwise lawful activities
Publication in the Federal Register triggered a 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule. (Chris Stiles) [June 23, 2016]