Displaying items by tag: American Bird Conservancy

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August 17, 2019

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Greater Sage-Grouse populations remain in serious trouble. Photo by Tom Reichner/Shutterstock

The Administration has finalized major changes to the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans. These changes gut vital protections for the grouse; undermine the deal made by Western states and federal officials; and create uncertainty for millions of Westerners and the bird.

 

The revised plans eliminate vital protections for the sage-grouse. Specifically, most of the Sagebrush Focal Areas — 8.7 million acres of the key habitat for grouse and some 350 other species that were off limits to immediate development in the original plans — are now exposed to increased oil and gas extraction and other energy development.

 

“Federal administrators began dismantling safeguards put in place by the 2015 plans as soon as they could, removing each layer of conservation management and mitigation,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Now grouse populations are declining across their range and have nearly disappeared from Washington State and the Dakotas. The trend is ominous.”

 

“These changes will put the grouse back on a path toward needing an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing,” said Mike Parr, ABC President. “That’s exactly the outcome that the 2015 cooperative plans had sought to prevent.”

 

Please see additional ABC information on sage-grouse:

Op-Ed: Will Federal Policies Doom the Sage-Grouse to Extinction?

Petition to Save the Grouse

 

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds).

 

 

Talkin' Pets News

January 12, 2019

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(Washington, D.C., July 19, 2018) The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing new rules to implement for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that will make it more difficult to recover Threatened and Endangered birds.

“These rules put species listed as ‘Threatened,’ rather than the more dire category of ‘Endangered,’ at greater risk of endangerment by eliminating the blanket protection known as the 4d rule,” said Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. “Under these changes, birds newly listed as Threatened could legally be killed or harmed. The changes would also make it more difficult to list species that the best science indicates should be listed, and to conserve and restore habitat, due to the weakening of Sec. 7 consultation for management of federal lands.

“Several bird species listed as Threatened under the ESA — the Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl in particular — likely owe their current existence to the ESA’s blanket 4d rule against take and the interagency cooperation mandated by Sec. 7,” continued Holmer.

One of the proposed changes is to adopt the 4d rule process currently used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for marine species. Instead of providing blanket protection for species newly listed as Threatened, NOAA puts 4d rules in place as threats arise, leading to delays in conservation action.

For example, because the Hawaiian monk seal is listed as Endangered, NOAA is addressing the emerging threat of the disease toxoplasmosis on the seal. “If the monk seal were listed as a Threatened species instead of Endangered under the ESA, it would require additional protection from toxoplasmosis in the form of new 4-d rule,” said Holmer. “The overall effect could be substantially delayed protection and an increased risk of further population losses.”

Seventy-eight percent of mainland birds listed as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted, according to a 2016 report published by American Bird Conservancy. The Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success analyzed population trends and recovery success for all U.S. listed birds, including those in the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories where the recovery success rate is lower due to the high number of threats.

“Added funding could help continue the upward trend of 41 listed U.S. bird populations and make their eventual recovery possible,” said Holmer. “Black-capped Vireo was recently delisted, and Kirtland’s Warbler and Nene (Hawaiian Goose) are on their way toward delisting due to successful conservation. We are supportive of these delistings provided that adequate conservation measures are assured moving forward.”

A proposed definition change to the ESA would make it easier to eliminate critical habitat, because any loss would have to be considered “as a whole.”

“Critical habitat is essential for maintaining and recovering species, but this change would allow the loss of habitat to occur drip by drip,” Holmer said. “Eventually there could be little critical habitat left.”

Another change could undermine the listing process by allowing for misleading economic analysis to be included in the listing rule, potentially inviting political interference. The benefits of wildlife conservation, which provide billions of dollars to the economy, are undervalued or not even included in these analyses.

“Maintaining the existing science-based listing process is crucial to conserve declining bird populations,” said Holmer. “Just this decade, seven new populations of birds were listed. If slanted economic analysis were included, it is likely that some of these species — such as the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red Knot, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse — may not have been granted ESA protection due to political interference. American Bird Conservancy is urging that the existing science-based listing process be retained.”

A 60-day comment period has been set for these proposed changes. Submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo: Changes to the ESA may reduce protections for birds such as Red Knots. Photo by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

 

(Washington, D.C., June 27, 2018) Nearly 100 years ago, on July 3, 1918, the United States enacted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to protect migratory birds. Passed in the nick of time, the Act helped restore populations of many birds, ranging from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. The original Act was a means of implementing a 1916 treaty between the U.S. and Canada intended to ensure the preservation of migratory bird species.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act — now under unprecedented threat — has played an essential role in the restoration of bird populations across the country, from herons and egrets to shorebirds and waterfowl. Photo of Great Blue Herons by FloridaStock/Shutterstock

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been a remarkable success,” said Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy. “The Act's authors responded to migratory bird declines by focusing on the threats of the early 20th century, and they would have been proud to see how the Act has been used to protect birds from modern threats.

“By keeping the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strong, we can build on that conservation success. We can avoid preventable deaths caused by human influences such as industrial development and misuse of pesticides — and ensure that future generations of Americans enjoy the same wondrous spectacle of migratory birds we do today.”

 
At 100, Successful Law is Under Attack

In a legal opinion issued December 2017, the Administration abruptly reversed decades of government policy and practice — by both Democratic and Republican administrations — on the implementation and enforcement of the MBTA. The Act's prohibition on the killing or "taking" of migratory birds has long been understood to extend to “incidental take” — meaning unintentional, but predictable and avoidable killing from threats such as oil pits that trap birds, and tall towers and power lines responsible for many bird collisions. Under the Administration's revised interpretation, the MBTA's protections will apply only to activities that purposefully kill birds. Any incidental take — no matter how inevitable, avoidable, or devastating its impact on birds — is now immune from enforcement under the law.

A coalition of national environmental groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed litigation, challenging the Administration's move to eliminate these longstanding protections.

Opposition against the weakening of the Act is also mounting in Congress. Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources are holding a roundtable discussion today to discuss potential next steps to counter the Administration and to discuss the benefits of creating an incidental take permitting system.

In addition, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, calling on him to keep enforcing the MBTA, cited as the country's most important bird conservation law.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this opinion and to cease any corresponding efforts to change agency rules or guidance under the MBTA,” the Senators wrote in their letter to Sec. Zinke. “Instead, we ask that you continue to enforce this foundational bird conservation law as every administration from across the political spectrum has done for more than 40 years.”

In their letter, the Senators call attention to the 100-year history of the MBTA and why it remains essential. “For the 1,000 species of birds protected by the MBTA, the menace of market hunting and the plume trade have since disappeared, but the threats to birds have not,” they wrote. “The rapid industrialization of the country in the 20th century created new threats, as millions of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds began to die tragic deaths after being trapped in oil pits, electrocuted on power lines, and more.”

ABC and a coalition of more than 500 conservation groups have called on Congress to defend the Act. And, in a remarkable show of support for keeping the MBTA strong, 17 high-ranking officials from previous Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Sec. Zinke opposing the change. "This legal opinion is contrary to the long-standing interpretation by every administration (Republican and Democrat) since at least the 1970s, who held that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act strictly prohibits the unregulated killing of birds," they wrote.

The bipartisan group of signers includes several former Deputy Secretaries of Interior and several former directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They agreed on the effectiveness of the MBTA, stating, "The Migratory Bird Treaty Act can and has been successfully used to reduce gross negligence by companies that simply do not recognize the value of birds to society or the practical means to minimize harm.”

MBTA Needed Now to Reverse Population Declines
 

Sensitive to climate change and habitat loss, birds are among our best indicators of how ecosystems have been altered and how well we are doing at mitigating these changes. The news is not good: In the State of North America's Birds 2016 report — an unprecedented trilateral analysis of how our birds are faring across the United States, Canada, and Mexico — data revealed that many of our bird species are disappearing, hastened along by habitat destruction, climate change, pesticides, and invasive species, among other factors. Today, fully one-third of all North American bird species, including seabirds, shorebirds, and grassland songbirds, urgently need conservation action.

“Migratory birds are more valuable than many realize,” Holmer said. “While birds have inherent value, they are also an economic driver, with U.S. bird enthusiasts spending billions of dollars on wildlife-watching equipment, backyard birding supplies, and birding tourism. Even more important, birds contribute to the biodiversity necessary to the health of our planet. They provide essential services to people, from natural control of insect pests to seed dispersal and pollination of our crops.

“Beyond their ecological significance, birds also connect us to our environment and nature in a positive feedback loop needed for human well-being, especially at a time when many people have too few chances to connect with wildlife and the outdoors,” Holmer continued. “Birds exist all around us, easily found right in our own backyards and parks. They uplift our spirits every day with their beauty and song.”

Protecting Birds from Needless Deaths
 

The risk of liability under the MBTA has long provided the oil and gas industry, wind energy development companies, and power transmission line operators with an incentive to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize bird deaths. For example, in an effort to protect migratory birds and bats and avoid potential MBTA liability, the wind energy industry, conservation groups, and the Service worked to develop comprehensive guidelines aimed at ensuring best practices for siting and developing wind projects. The Administration's new policy eliminates this incentive for industries and individuals to minimize and mitigate foreseeable impacts of their activities on migratory birds, putting already-declining populations of our nation's songbirds and other migratory birds at risk.

"Some companies put strong conservation practices in place without needing legal incentives,” said Holmer. “But having the law in place encourages all companies to do the right thing. These changes to the MBTA would take the teeth out of the only law that protects the vast majority of our native birds."

Millions of birds are killed by preventable industrial causes each year. Hundreds of thousands are killed by wind turbines — a number that continues to grow. Millions more perish at associated power lines and towers.

“Because of the MBTA, we have seen steady progress toward reducing sources of bird mortality,” Holmer added. “Best management practices, like covering oil pits with screens, put little burden on industry but reduce the needless deaths of birds.”

In practice, enforcement of the MBTA has only occurred in a few instances when companies failed to adopt accepted industry best practices — and ignored government cautions and requests for mitigation. Only a handful of companies from across the energy sector have been prosecuted and fined, in spite of their known impacts on birds.

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@abcbirds1).

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Feared Extinct, the Táchira Antpitta Has Been Found in Remote Andean Region

 

(Washington, D.C., July 25, 2017) An international team of researchers has solved one of South America’s great bird mysteries. Working deep in the mountainous forests of western Venezuela, they have rediscovered the Táchira Antpitta, a plump brown bird species not seen since it was first recorded in the 1950s.

The 7.5-inch-long Táchira (TAH-chee-rah) Antpitta had not been spotted since 1955-56, when ornithologists first recorded and described it. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Critically Endangered, and many feared it was lost for good.

Last year, scientists of the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) — a conservation partnership between the Smithsonian and several scientific organizations in Venezuela — organized a team to go in search of the antpitta. The team was led by Jhonathan Miranda of RSI and Provita, and included colleagues Alejandro Nagy, Peter Bichier of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Miguel Lentino and Miguel Matta of the Colección Ornitólogica Phelps (COP). American Bird Conservancy (ABC) provided financial support through a William Belton Conservation Fund grant as part of its ongoing Search for Lost Birds.

The team set out in June 2016, knowing that several factors were likely to make the antpitta especially challenging to find, if in fact it still existed. The species inhabits dense undergrowth at altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet in a rugged and hard-to-reach region of the Andes. Difficult to identify visually, the bird differs in coloration in subtle ways from related species.

Antpittas are also easier to hear than to see. But without sound recordings, nobody knew what to listen for.

The researchers had an advantage: They knew where to look.  “We followed the route described in the earlier expedition’s field notebooks to locate the original site of the discovery,” Miranda said.

To reach the remote location, part of what is now El Tamá National Park, the team traveled by foot on steep and narrow Andean trails, with a mule train to carry their gear. From their campsite, the team hiked two hours in the dark to reach appropriate habitat at dawn, the best time to hear the birds sing.

The first day there, Miranda and Nagy detected the distinctive song of an antpitta they had not heard before. “We were thrilled to re-find the Táchira Antpitta during our first day in the field,” said Miranda, “and we think they persist in more places we have not yet searched.”

Over the next week, the team was able to confirm the mysterious song as that of the long-lost Táchira Antpitta, obtaining the first photographs and sound recordings ever made of the living bird.

“The rediscovery provides hope and inspiration that we still have a chance to conserve this species,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President of International Programs. “We hope this rediscovery will lead to improved management of and attention for protected areas like El Tamá National Park.”

“El Tamá National Park is an important part of Venezuela’s natural heritage and recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a critical site to protect for the Táchira Antpitta and other biodiversity,” said Jon Paul Rodriguez of Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC, the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research), Provita, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

“Jhonathan Miranda and his RSI colleagues have resolved one of South America’s great bird mysteries, and we hope their findings will contribute to a renewed effort to conserve this species,” said Lebbin.

In the coming months, the team plans to publish the full details of their findings in a scientific journal, including how the Táchira Antpitta’s voice and visual characteristics distinguish it from other similar species. Additional field work is necessary to learn more about this mysterious bird. Similar habitat can be found nearby in Colombia, and the species might also occur there. Better knowledge of the species’ vocalizations and the visual identification gathered in this study will help researchers determine the species' full range, ecology and habitat requirements, and how best to ensure its conservation.

“This species was originally described by William H. Phelps, Jr. of the COP and Alexander Wetmore, former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,” said Michael Braun of the RSI and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “It is fitting that the Red Siskin Initiative, in which COP and the Smithsonian are key collaborators, has been instrumental in the rediscovery. We invite those interested in helping us learn more about this species to join us.”

The Venezuela search team owes its success to a number of individuals and institutions. Logistical support came from ABC, RSI, IVIC, COP, Provita, INPARQUES, Ascanio Birding Tours, the Smithsonian Institution, and the following individuals: Carolina Afan, Miguel Angel Arvelo, David Ascanio, Michael Braun, Felix Briceño, Brian Coyle, Dan Lebbin, Cipriano Ochoa, Tomás Odenall, Jorge Perez Eman, Jon Paul Rodriguez, Kathryn Rodriguez-Clark, and Bibiana Sucre.

(Photo: Táchira Antpitta by Jhonathan Miranda)

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Colección Ornitólogica Phelps (Phelps Ornithological Collection) is a private organization aiming to know the diversity, distribution, taxonomic and systematics of the birds of Venezuela. It is the largest and most complete collection of birds in Latin America, and among the 20 largest collections in the world, which has allowed Venezuela to be the country of Latin America best known in birds.

Provita is an NGO devoted to conservation of Venezuela's environment in its widest sense, using multiple fields of knowledge and innovative approaches to achieve integral solutions. In our almost three decades, we have successfully completed hundreds of projects, ranging from recovery of emblematic endangered species, to developing alternative livelihoods for indigenous and rural communities.

The National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, is the largest natural history museum in the world, with more than 140 million cataloged specimens, and annual visitorship of more than 7 million. The Museum conducts natural history research and fieldwork around the globe.

 

(Washington, D.C., June 7, 2017) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is concerned by today’s order from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) review the federal government’s Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans. Sec. Zinke emphasized that the review would focus on potential oil and gas development on public lands.


"Sage-Grouse have already paid a terrible price in terms of population and habitat losses from past habitat loss and oil and gas drilling,” said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ABC’s Vice President of Policy. “This review is not a good use of the Bureau’s time or taxpayer dollars, but it is likely that the Sage-Grouse will be the biggest loser.”

 

The plans were finalized in 2015 after 5 years of collaborative effort by stakeholders across the West. Any weakening of the conservation standards laid out in the plans would likely result in further losses to a species on the brink of becoming endangered. Sage-Grouse remain at risk, with populations declining in several states.


The existing plans were designed to halt the loss of Sage-Grouse habitat, and to balance conservation with activities such as oil and gas drilling. They also include safeguards to justify the decision not to list Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.


“The Interior Department should not abandon this progress or ignore the stakeholders, including sportsmen, business owners, and conservationists, who invested years of work and countless resources into developing the existing plans,” said Holmer.


Western leaders including Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sent Sec. Zinke a letter in late May stating that the plans do not need significant changes. Western economies benefit from roughly $1 billion a year in economic output driven by outdoor recreation and tourism in Sage-Grouse habitat.


Many important grouse habitats have already been heavily fragmented by past oil and gas development. In Wyoming’s Buffalo Planning Area, for example, 27,122 oil wells were drilled between 1999 and 2008, with more than 10,300 additional wells planned by 2028.


(Photo by Pat Gaines)

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American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

 

(Washington, D.C., June 1, 2017) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) condemns President Donald J. Trump’s decision, announced today, to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The reversal increases the dangers that a changing climate creates for migratory birds like Red Knot and many other species, including humans.

“This is another indication of a backward-looking energy policy that would plunder America’s remaining wildlife sanctuaries in the Arctic, offshore, and in the grasslands and forests,” said Steve Holmer, ABC’s Vice President of Policy. “We can develop a smart energy policy that responds to the climate challenge while still protecting birds and other wildlife and conserving their habitats.”

ABC remains strongly committed to combating the threats, including climate change and habitat loss, which face birds throughout the Americas. Together with partners, we have planted more than 5 million trees and protected vital habitat in North, Central, and South America.

Red Knots are one of many species affected by a changing climate. Photo by Mike Parr

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American Bird Conservancy  is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Partnership Aims to Turn the Tide for Migratory Birds

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Jennifer Howard, Director of Public Relations, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7472

(Washington, D.C., March 13, 2017) Two leading bird conservation groups, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have launched “Science to Action,” a partnership aimed at reversing decades of population declines for migratory birds in the Americas. Bringing together the Cornell Lab’s cutting-edge science and ABC’s on-the-ground approach to bird conservation, this joint effort represents new hope for hundreds of declining species that journey each spring and fall between their breeding grounds in North America and wintering grounds in Latin America and the Caribbean.

ABC and the Cornell Lab are combining their strengths at a critical moment for migratory birds. Landmark conservation measures such as the Endangered Species Act are being targeted for elimination even as environmental threats mount. As the most recent State of North America's Birds report makes starkly clear, fully one-third of our continent's bird species will require concerted conservation efforts to ensure their future.

The ABC-Cornell Lab partnership will focus on how new data and conservation tools can be harnessed to enhance conservation of migratory birds across their breeding and wintering grounds, as well as stopover sites in between.

“The Cornell Lab’s dedicated science team and its depth of citizen-science data make it a perfect fit for informing better conservation decision-making by ABC,” said George Fenwick, President of ABC.

“The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy share common values and complementary expertise for protecting wild bird populations across the Western Hemisphere,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Cornell Lab. “With so many bird species showing alarming declines, it is more important than ever that the Lab work closely with ABC, combining our scientific focus and citizen-science data with ABC’s effective conservation actions.”

Kenneth V. Rosenberg, Applied Conservation Scientist at the Cornell Lab, is leading the new partnership. “Our two organizations will provide a unified voice for bird conservation, applying the best science on the ground at important natural areas and informing policies that affect the future of bird populations,” he said.

Together the partners will:

  • Leverage data and resources from the Cornell Lab to refine and prioritize ABC’s conservation strategies, including ABC BirdScapes—landscape-scale areas critically important to targeted bird species. Such data are key to answering the “Where and when?” questions that drive ABC’s conservation planning.
  • Identify and develop conservation strategies for key migratory stopovers. Researchers are learning that the success of migration may hinge on just two or three stopovers located strategically along the migration route for each species. One chief goal of the partnership is determining how we can best conserve these stopover sites.
  • Use citizen-science data from eBird to help monitor and evaluate the success of ABC reserves and projects—the “Did it work?” piece of ABC’s conservation efforts.
  • Provide science support for Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, and leadership for conservation alliances such as Partners in Flight and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s State of the Birds reports.

(Photo: ABC and the Cornell Lab will work together to identify and protect habitats that sustain migration for some of North America's most-loved species, including Blackburnian Warbler.)

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American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Its hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning bout birds and protecting the planet. The Cornell Lab is a nonprofit organization whose mission is supported by friends, members, and more than 400,000 citizen-science participants.

 

Golden Eagle by Mical Ninger, Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., April 30, 2014) A leading bird conservation organization—American Bird Conservancy (ABC)—has announced its intention to sue the Department of the Interior (DOI), charging DOI with multiple violations of federal law in connection with its December 9, 2013, final regulation that allows wind energy companies and others to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles without prosecution by the federal government. The previous rule provided for a maximum duration of five years for each permit.

ABC sent DOI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) an April 30, 2014, Notice of Intent to Sue that cited DOI violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) in connection with the new eagle kill rule. ABC is being represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

“ABC has heard from thousands of citizens from across the country who are outraged that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to let the wind industry legally kill our country’s iconic Bald and Golden eagles. The rule lacks a firm foundation in scientific justification and was generated without the benefit of a full assessment of its impacts on eagle populations,” said Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC's Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

As the notice to DOI states, “ABC strongly supports wind power and other renewable energy projects when those projects are located in an appropriate, wildlife-friendly manner and when the impacts on birds and other wildlife have been conscientiously considered and addressed before irreversible actions are undertaken. On the other hand, when decisions regarding … projects are made precipitously and without compliance with elementary legal safeguards designed to ensure that our nation’s invaluable trust resources are not placed at risk, ABC will take appropriate action to safeguard eagles and other migratory birds."

ABC is initiating legal action in order to have the rule invalidated pending full compliance with federal environmental statutes. For example, the 30-year eagle permit rule was adopted in the absence of any NEPA document or any ESA consultation regarding impacts. It is therefore a “… glaring example of an agency action that gambles recklessly with the fate of the nation’s Bald and Golden eagle populations,” the letter says.

"Bald Eagle populations may be technically recovered, but their popularity and symbolic importance to our nation suggests that the American people are not going to tolerate the deaths of many," said Hutchins. "Golden Eagles are another matter. Much more needs to be known about their status before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can safely decide how many wind energy companies can kill with no net loss to the population."

The ABC Notice of Intent to Sue letter closes by saying:“The 30-year rule … undermines the nation’s longstanding commitment to conservation of eagles—unique animals that are ‘ubiquitous in U.S. culture, attesting to the widespread symbolic importance the eagle holds in U.S. society.’ ABC will pursue legal action to address these violations and ensure that eagles, and the millions of Americans who enjoy them, obtain the legal protections to which they are entitled under U.S. law.”

In 2009, 22,000 wind turbines were in operation, representing 25 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity, a fraction of the 300GW of production capacity needed to meet the 2030 federal goal of 20 percent of U.S. electrical generation coming from renewable energy. Wind energy project growth is expected to impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat (larger than the combined areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island) and over 4,000 square miles of marine habitat by 2030, some of this critical to threatened species.

ABC's efforts to establish Bird Smart wind energy in the U.S. are made possible in part by the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

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American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a singular and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal is a Washington, D.C. - based public interest law firm providing high quality legal services and advocacy for non-profit organizations on environmental, wildlife, and related matters. 

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