Apr 162012

FWS has proposed new regulations that would extend from five to 30 years the duration of programmatic permits that allow the taking of bald or golden eagles.

In the proposal, published Friday, April 13, FWS said:

In February 2011, we published draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance that provided information on how to prepare Eagle Conservation Plans and apply for eagle take permits. Many commenters recommended that we extend the term of the permit, as we are proposing to do with this rule. Since publication of the 2009 final rule, we have reviewed applications from proponents of renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power facilities, for programmatic permits to authorize eagle take that may result from both the construction and ongoing operations of renewable energy projects. During our review, it became evident that the 5-year term limit imposed by the 2009 regulations (see 50 CFR 22.26(h)) needed to be extended to better correspond to the timeframe of renewable energy projects. We propose to amend the regulations to provide for terms of up to 30 years for programmatic permits. The maximum permit tenure for standard Sec. 22.26 permits would remain at 5 years.

"Programmatic take" of eagles "is defined at 50 CFR 22.3 as 'take that is recurring, is not caused solely by indirect effects, and that occurs over the long term or in a location or locations that cannot be specifically identified,' " the service noted.

The proposal was immediately attacked by the American Bird Conservancy, which said it would result in the deaths of more eagles from wind turbines. In a news release, ABC Wind Campaign Coordinator Kelly Fuller said, “It is simply irresponsible of [FWS] to propose granting 30-year take permits for birds such as eagles, which have populations that are still in a precarious state. Just three years ago, the FWS concluded in a published rulemaking that they shouldn’t grant permits for longer than five years 'because factors may change over a longer period of time such that a take authorized much earlier would later be incompatible with the preservation of the bald eagle or the golden eagle.' The underlying science has not changed, and there is no proven method for fixing a wind farm so that it no longer kills eagles, short of turning off the turbines."

The proposal's comment period ends May 14, but we wouldn't be surprised to see that extended.


US/Russia ice seal survey to begin as NMFS ponders peer reviews

The United States and Russia will conduct surveys for ice seals, the National Marine Fisheries Service has announced. In addition, the agency is asking for comments on peer reviews of the service's December 2010 proposal to list four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPS) of bearded seals, including the Arctic ringed seal and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals, as threatened under the ESA.

NMFS "found substantial scientific disagreements in some peer and public comments received on the listing proposals, particularly relating to the sufficiency or accuracy of the model projections and analysis of future sea ice habitat for Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals," the agency said in an April 5 press release.

Ice seal page (Go here for peer reviews)

AP story ("US, Russia to begin Bering Sea seal survey")