Nicholas Throckmorton 202/208-5636
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released today for public comment a Draft Environmental Assessment and Management Plan that proposes to allow the limited removal and possession of migrant first-year "Northern" (predominantly Arctic subspecies) peregrine falcons from the wild for use in falconry. The falcons could be captured in areas and at times where their removal would have no significant impact on the population.
"A few decades ago, the peregrine falcon in North America was on the verge of extinction due largely to the effects of DDT, which affected both the American and Arctic peregrine falcon subspecies," said Service Director Dale Hall. "We recognize that falconers have long sought protection of wild raptor populations and played a significant role in the species' comeback. They were among the first to report the decline in peregrine populations and, in fact, contributed peregrines held for falconry to captive propagation efforts. Now that peregrine populations are healthy, the Service is considering once again allowing the traditional capture of migrant peregrine falcons for use in falconry."
There are three recognized subspecies of peregrine falcons in North America: the Arctic peregrine which nests in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland and migrates south to Central and South America; the American peregrine which nests in parts of southern Canada, Alaska, and the conterminous United States, some of which migrate south; and the non-migratory Peale's peregrine which resides on the Pacific coast from Alaska to Oregon.
In the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA), the Service considers six alternatives for the removal and possession of migrant peregrine falcons in the United States. Four alternatives would allow capture and possession in different locations and at different times. The Service found that one alternative for take that was initially considered reasonable would not allow take under the rigorous restrictions adopted. Finally, the "no-action" alternative would mean that the current prohibition on take of migrating peregrines would remain in place.
The preferred alternative is to annually allow removal of up to 105 first-year peregrine falcons split evenly between males and females, between September 20 and October 20, from southern Georgia, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico coastal area, and expand authorization in Alaska to include migrants and fledged young of all subspecies. Because both American and Arctic peregrines nest in Alaska, the DEA considers take of nestlings, recently fledged young, and migrants there. However, take in Alaska is factored into the alternatives that allow take of migratory first-year peregrines elsewhere in the United States. The Service has concluded that any take that may be allowed is unlikely to negatively effect populations of peregrine falcons in North America or Greenland.
The majority of peregrine falcons that migrate from North America to Central and South America (mostly Arctic and northern American peregrines) pass along the Atlantic coast and over the Gulf of Mexico. However, many other peregrines in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada do not migrate far south. It is this difference in migration that allows the Service to consider take of migrants. The alternatives that would allow take of migrants are restricted so as to protect the continuing recovery of the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada American peregrine falcon population. The Service has considered only levels of take that would ensure the continued growth of the population in this region.
Copies of the DEA and Draft Management Plan can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Mail Stop 4107, Arlington, VA 22203-1610. Written comments on the DEA can be sent to the same address, noting Attention - Migrant Peregrine EA. The Draft EA also is available at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/. Comments on the DEA also may be submitted electronically via the Division of Migratory Bird Management web site at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/, where a link for comments is available. The due date for comments is February 11, 2008.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies