Extends Comment Period
on Removing the Bald
Eagle from the Endangered
Species Act, Seeks
Comment on Management
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the deadline for the public to submit comments on proposed voluntary guidelines and a regulatory definition designed to help landowners and others understand how they can help ensure bald eagles continue to flourish.
This extension also applies to the Service’s original 1999 proposal to remove the bald eagle from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has extended the public comment period in order to solicit current information regarding bald eagle populations and trends and to give the public more time to comment on the proposed delisting in light of the draft voluntary guidelines.
In February of 2006, the Service announced in the Federal Register the availability of draft management guidelines for landowners and others to use as a tool to ensure bald eagle protection should it be delisted, along with a regulatory clarification of the term “disturb” under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).
Today there are an estimated 7,066 nesting pairs of bald eagles due to recovery efforts by the Service, other Federal agencies, Tribes, State and local governments, conservation organizations, universities, corporations and thousands of individual Americans. Five regional recovery plans were created for the bald eagle. The delisting criteria for all five plans were met or exceeded by the year 2000.
The draft voluntary National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines are not Federal regulations. They are intended to provide information for people who engage in recreational or land use activities on how to avoid impacts to eagles prohibited by BGEPA and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The guidelines are crafted to reflect the current way Federal and State managers interpret BGEPA and the MBTA. For example, the guidelines recommend buffers around nests when conducting activities likely to disturb bald eagles. These areas serve to screen nesting eagles from noise and visual distractions caused by human activities.
The extended comment period also applies to the proposed regulation to clarify the term “disturb” under BGEPA to be consistent with existing Federal and State interpretation. Under the clarification, “disturb” would be defined as actions that disrupt the breeding, feeding or sheltering practices of an eagle, causing injury, death or nest abandonment. This is the standard the Service has used informally over the years and also how States have interpreted the statute. The proposed regulation defining “disturb” would codify this interpretation. This definition will provide clarity to the public while continuing protection for bald eagles, which will help ensure an almost seamless transition to delisting.
Comments on the proposed delisting, draft National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and draft definition of the term “disturb” must be received by June 19, 2006.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 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.
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