Upon request, USFWS issues Letters of Authorization (LOAs) for the incidental take of marine mammals under existing incidental take regulations (ITRs) and for the intentional harassment (i.e., hazing, deterrence) of polar bears under sections 101(a)(4)(A), 109(h) and 112(c) of the MMPA. For more information on polar bear intentional harassment LOAs and associated training requirements, see Polar Bear Active Deterrence Authorization and Training. See Incidental Take Authorizations – Applicant Instructions for information on applying for new incidental take regulations (ITRs) or incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs).
To apply for an incidental take LOA and/or an intentional take LOA, send a statement of request to the Marine Mammals Management (MMM) Regulatory Program (R7mmmregulatory@fws.gov) at least 90 days before the LOA is needed. You may submit a single request for both an incidental take LOA and an intentional take LOA, but it must contain all required criteria for both types of LOAs. If you are a first-time LOA applicant or are in doubt about whether project activities require an LOA, please contact the MMM Regulatory Program before submitting an application.
Criteria to Include in an LOA Request
For LOAs authorizing intentional take (hazing or deterrence) of polar bears*:
1. A plan of operations that describes in detail the activity (e.g., type of project, methods, and types and numbers of equipment and personnel, etc.), the dates and duration of the activity, and the specific areas affected by the activity. Please also include a map of the project area.
2. A polar bear interaction plan which includes the following:
- Attractants management: establishing protocols and procedures to limit attractants to wild animals within property boundaries by storing garbage, human waste, food, and other products in areas not accessible to bears
- Snow management (where applicable): establishing protocols and procedures to remove snow around buildings and work areas to increase visibility, such as planning the placement of snow berms
- Lighting systems management: establishing protocols to ensure lighting is adequate to detect bears
- Where applicable, depictions of pad and facility layout with identification of “at-risk” locations and situations with solutions that minimize risk
- Bear avoidance and encounter procedures. These include a plan for crew communication in the field and steps that will be taken when a bear is observed. If plans include use of live rounds like cracker shells, bean bags, or rubber bullets, identify how rounds will be handled to prevent mixing of lethal and less-lethal rounds
- Personnel training materials and procedures used for polar bear awareness and/or deterrence training, including specialized training for polar bear monitors
- A list of trained and qualified personnel to perform deterrence activities. Deterrence personnel will be approved by the Service based on training and experience. Training can include, but is not limited to other agency training in bear safety, such as training provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. However, the majority of deterrence training will be conducted at the time of application review by Service biologists or third party trainers approved by the Service that have completed a Service Train-the-Trainer bear deterrence course (see details on the Polar Bear Deterrence Training page)
- Procedures for reporting marine mammal observations to the Service. We recommend these include use of the Service Sighting Form (available upon request). Note the appropriate Service contact information for marine mammal reports: firstname.lastname@example.org
For LOAs authorizing incidental take of polar bears (and Pacific walruses, if applicable) under the 2021 -2026 Beaufort Sea Incidental Take Regulations*:
*Note that only entities specified in the request for these ITRs or a subsidiary, subcontractor, or successor-in-interest to such an entity may receive an LOA under them.
1. A plan of operations that describes in detail the activity (e.g., type of project, methods, and types and numbers of equipment and personnel, etc.), the dates and duration of the activity, and the specific locations of and areas affected by the activity. Project timeline tables for all activities and maps of all existing and planned infrastructure, including seasonal gravel and ice roads, are encouraged. Please note whether operational plans differ from those that were described in the petition for the Beaufort Sea ITRs.
2. A digital geospatial file of the project footprint.
3. Estimates of human occupancy rates of the project area by month or by season (seasons are open water season, 19 July – 11 November, and ice season, 12 November – 18 July). Occupancy rates reflect the percentage of time humans will be occupying a piece of infrastructure. For example, most roads have a 50% occupancy rate. This accounts for any part of the road being occupied up to 50% of the time, which could be 24 hours for half of the month, 12 hours a day, or every other day.
4. A site-specific marine mammal monitoring and mitigation plan that specifies the procedures to monitor and mitigate effects of the activities on walruses and/or polar bears. This should include the frequency and dates of aerial infrared (AIR) surveys if such surveys are required to identify potential polar bear dens, and if they are not required, a statement explaining why. AIR survey date windows and frequencies must be consistent with the 2021-2026 Beaufort Sea Incidental Take Regulations. Plans should also include the polar bear interaction plan components listed above (under the Intentional Take LOA request criteria).
5. Documentation of communication and coordination with Alaska Native communities potentially affected by the Industry activity and, as appropriate, with representative subsistence hunting and co-management organizations, such as the North Slope Borough, the Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council (ANCC), and Eskimo Walrus Commission (EWC), among others.
If Alaska Native communities or representative subsistence hunting organizations express concerns about the potential impacts of project activities on subsistence activities, and such concerns are not resolved during the initial communication and coordination process, then you must develop and submit a Plan of Cooperation (POC) with your LOA request. POCs require further engagement with Native communities and/or representative subsistence hunting organizations to provide information and respond to questions and concerns. If a POC is not necessary because there are no unresolved concerns on impacts to subsistence harvests, state this in your request. A POC, when required, should include:
- A statement that the applicant has notified and provided a draft POC to the affected subsistence communities.
- Plans for meeting with the affected subsistence communities to discuss proposed activities, to provide updates during operations, and to resolve potential conflicts regarding any aspects of either the activities or the POC.
- A description of the measures the applicant has taken and/or will take to ensure that proposed activities will not interfere with subsistence harvest to ensure continued availability of the species for subsistence use.
- LOAs may be modified or reissued upon request as needed. If there are changes in plans for project activities (including activity timing and location), field personnel, or the operating company after an LOA has been issued, please contact us to discuss the changes and whether a new or amended LOA is required.