The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing improvements for how it processes permits for the incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The service is proposing to create general permits for four activities under current regulations: wind-energy generation projects, power line infrastructure, disturbance of breeding bald eagles, and bald eagle nest take. Each general permit outlines eligibility criteria and mitigation requirements to avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts to eagles.
Eligible activities would obtain a general permit by registering with the service and certifying compliance with permit conditions without review by the service. In addition, the service is proposing to improve the specific permit process. Specific, or individual, permits require applicants to submit an application that is reviewed by the service, which then works with the applicant to develop mitigation measures appropriate to the project. Any project that does not qualify for one of the proposed general permits would still be able to apply for a specific permit.
“Preservation of bald and golden eagles is a key responsibility for the Service,” says Service Director Martha Williams. “This proposed rule is part of an open and transparent process where we can engage the public in a collaborative effort to help us conserve bald and golden eagles, while also creating a process to provide multiple pathways to obtain a permit.”
Human development and infrastructure continue to expand in the United States and at the same time, bald eagle populations are growing throughout their range. The service’s purpose in proposing amendments to the permit process is to encourage more project proponents that may have an impact on eagles to obtain a permit and implement mitigation measures. This will improve the conservation of both bald eagles and golden eagles, incentivizing more projects to be in compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) and implement mitigation measures.
The Eagle Act prohibits the harm and possession of bald and golden eagles and their parts, nests or eggs, except pursuant to federal regulations. The Eagle Act also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations to permit the taking of eagles for various purposes, provided the taking is compatible with the preservation of the bald eagle and the golden eagle.