USFWS to streamline incidental take permits for eagles

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the permitting regulations for the incidental take of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles to streamline the process, making it straightforward and cost-effective.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits “taking” bald (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), including their parts, nests or eggs. To “take” is defined as to “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest or disturb” any bald or golden eagle, whether “alive or dead … unless authorized by permit.” The USFWS issues permits for scientific, educational and Native American religious purposes as well as for falconry (for golden eagles only), and the incidental—or unintentional—take of eagles. The USFWS Office of Law Enforcement also operates the National Eagle Repository, a facility that receives confiscated bald and golden eagles, parts and feathers for evaluation, storage, and/or distribution to Native Americans who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

Citing the increase in human development and infrastructure around the country, which is resulting in increased interactions between eagles and industrial infrastructure, the USFWS is accepting public comments on ways to develop a more streamlined permitting framework. The agency is looking for feedback on several issues, including any additional guidance or tools the USFWS could develop that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and implementing incidental take permits, as well as potential new regulatory approaches to authorizing incidental take that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and operating under incidental take permits.

The regulations governing incidental take were first promulgated in 2009 and were updated in 2016. That rule covers 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, and allows regulated entities to receive 30-year permits.

The USFWS will accept comments through Oct. 29.

Header Image: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting feedback on ways to improve their permits for incidental take of bald and golden eagles. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS