Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
Bald and golden eagle protection and permitting
The Bald Eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story. Forty years ago, our national symbol was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range. Habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and the contamination of its food source, largely as a consequence of DDT, decimated the eagle population.
Habitat protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, the federal government's banning of DDT, and conservation actions taken by the American public have helped bald eagles make a remarkable recovery. So while bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in August 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently, both bald and golden eagles remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act (Eagle Act).
Eagle take permitting
Bald Eagles were originally protected federally when Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940. In 1962, Congress amended the Eagle Act to also include golden eagles recognizing that the population of the golden eagle had declined at such an alarming rate that it was threatened with extinction. At this time, the law was renamed the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
This law provides specific protection for bald and golden eagles by prohibiting take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase, or barter, transport, or export/import of any eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit (16 U.S.C. 668(a); 50 CFR 22).
The term "take" includes to "pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb."
Civil penalties for violating provisions of the Act are a maximum fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment, with $10,000 or not more than two years in prison for a second conviction. Felony convictions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment.
In 2009, regulations were passed to allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to permit limited take of eagles (50 CFR 22.26) and their nests (50 CFR 22.27). These permitting regulations were recently revised in 2016. For more information on the recent revisions, click here.
Under these regulations, the Service can issue limited permits that authorize individual instances of take of bald and golden eagles when the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity, and cannot practicably be avoided. The revised regulations include both short-term (≤ 5 years) and long-term permits (5-30 years) for this incidental eagle take. The regulations also allow for permitting eagle nest take, take of depredating eagles, research of eagles, possession of eagles for education purposes, and Native American possession of eagle feathers and parts for religious and cultural purposes.
As the Service’s objective is to maintain stable or increasing breeding populations of eagles, the Service cannot issue an eagle take permit if doing so would decrease the overall number of eagles in the regional and local eagle populations. However, the Service takes into consideration any proposed compensatory mitigation actions that offset fatalities by reducing another potential eagle fatality in the region when issuing a permit.
Eagles and industry
The nation’s interest in increasing its production of domestic energy and advances in wind energy technologies have resulted in rapid expansion of the wind energy industry in the United States. This lead the Service to develop Voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines in 2012 that will help shape the smart siting, design and operation of the nation's wind energy operations and provide a structured, scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development.
In addition, these voluntary guidelines provide Best Management Practices for site development, construction, retrofitting, repowering, and decommissioning. The guidelines also promote effective communication among developers and federal, state, tribal, and local conservation agencies. Both developers and wildlife agencies have recognized the need for a system to evaluate and address the potential negative impacts of wind energy projects on species of concern.
The Service recognizes that industrial facilities, even those developed and operated with the utmost effort to conserve wildlife, may, under some circumstances, result in the "take" of eagles. Thus, the Service has also developed eagle conservation plan guidance to provide recommendations for measures to manage and mitigate impact to eagles from industrial development. Although targeted to wind energy development, many of the concepts and approaches outlined in this guidance document can be readily exported to other situations such as solar facilities, electric power lines, etc. Eagle Conservation Plans may serve as the foundation for long-term eagle take permit applications.
Eagle conservation plan guidance
As, wind energy developers and wildlife agencies have recognized a need for specific guidance to help make wind energy facilities compatible with eagle conservation and the laws and regulations that protect eagles. To meet this need, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed the Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance (ECPG).
This document provides specific, in‐depth guidance for conserving bald and golden eagles in the course of siting, constructing, and operating wind energy facilities. The ECPG guidance supplements the Service's Land‐Based Wind Energy Guidelines (WEG). WEG provides a broad overview of wildlife considerations for siting and operating wind energy facilities, but does not address the in‐depth guidance needed for the specific legal protections afforded to bald and golden eagles. The ECPG fills this gap.
Like the Wind Energy Guidance, the ECPG calls for wind project developers to take a staged approach to siting new projects. Both call for preliminary landscape‐level assessments to assess potential wildlife interactions and proceed to site‐specific surveys and risk assessments prior to construction.
They also call for monitoring project operations and reporting eagle fatalities to the Service and state and tribal wildlife agencies.
While compliance with the ECPG is voluntary, the Service believes that following the guidance will help project operators comply with regulatory requirements and avoid the unintentional "take" of eagles at wind energy facilities, and will also assist the wind energy industry in providing the biological data needed to support permit applications for facilities that may pose a risk to eagles.
Permits under the MBTA that may also pertain to eagles
As authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to qualified applicants for the following types of activities: falconry, raptor propagation, scientific collecting, special purposes (rehabilitation, educational, migratory game bird propagation, and salvage), take of depredating birds, taxidermy, and waterfowl sale and disposal.
Migratory bird permit policy is developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the permits themselves are issued by regional bird permit offices. The regulations governing migratory bird permits can be found in 50 CFR part 13 (General Permit Procedures) and 50 CFR part 21 (Migratory Bird Permits). Application and Annual Report Forms for MBTA permits can be found here.
Frequently asked questions
How do eagle take permits protect eagles?
A permittee that takes eagles under the authority of a permit must implement measures to avoid, minimize, and otherwise mitigate threats to eagles. To ensure permit issuance is consistent with the goal of stable or increasing eagle populations, compensatory mitigation that offsets eagle mortality may also be required for permit issuance.
How do I apply for an eagle take permit?
Prospective permittees apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office using an application form specifically tailored to their proposed activity. The information collected through permit applications is used to determine whether or not the individual qualifies for the type of migratory bird-related permit for which you have applied. You may obtain an application online, or by contacting a Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office near you. The form used for permits is the "Eagle Incidental Take" form found here.
Where do I mail my application?
Permit applications must be mailed to the Regional FWS Permit Office in the region where you are located. Find the address on our list of Regional Migratory Bird Permit Offices.
Who to contact with questions about migratory bird permits?
Contact our Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office:
Pacific Southwest Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Permit Office
2800 Cottage Way Sacramento, CA 95825
Tel. (916) 414-6464
Fax (916) 414-6486
(Please include your telephone number in the text of your message so we may better serve you).
Open for Comment
Draft Environmental Assessment for Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Eagle Take Permit
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management are posting a Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) in response to our respective requests by Ocotillo Express, LLC for an eagle take permit and a Right of Way grant amendment at its Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility. Eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most important wildlife conservation success stories of the United States. In 2016, the Service developed a science-driven rule that represents a comprehensive approach to conservation of both bald and golden eagles. This final rule is a means to balance conservation of these species while allowing responsible industry activities to continue. Under the rule, the Service will issue, on a case-by-case basis, individual permits for incidental eagle take. Our ultimate goal is to ensure stable or increasing populations of bald and golden eagles for the benefit of current and future generations of Americans.
The Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility is an existing, operational wind facility in Imperial County, California. The approximately 315-megawatt project consists of 112 wind turbines within an area of approximately 12,500 acres located almost entirely on Bureau of Land Management lands.
In its eagle take permit application, Ocotillo Express LLC provided an Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP) that describes measures the wind farm will implement to avoid, minimize and mitigate the project’s impacts to golden eagles. The ECP was prepared in coordination with the Service, using eagle conservation guidelines developed for the wind energy industry.
Under our assessment, the company would be permitted to take a maximum of two golden eagles over a five-year-period and would be required to take steps to protect eagles from power lines, including retrofitting a minimum of 74 power poles to prevent electrocutions of eagles, as well as other actions to reduce impacts to the eagle population. We also assess the option of issuing a 30 year permit.
BLM is responding to the wind facility’s request to amend their ROW grant in two ways. The wind facility asks BLM to lift the requirement of an experimental system that was intended to minimize risk to eagles. The wind project would also like to change the turbine’s night time lighting system from lights that flash all night to lights that would turn on only when an air craft is flying near the project.
With posting of the DEA, the Service and BLM are opening a 30-day comment period. The Service will accept comments until November 30, 2018.
Please send comments to: email@example.com and include “Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility DEA Comments” in the subject line of the message.
Open for Comment
Service seeks public comment on impacts to eagles from mining company's operations, proposed expansion
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on the potential environmental impacts of issuing a permit to disturb golden eagles and their habitats at a Northern Nevada gold mine. Along with ongoing operations at the mine, Hycroft Resource and Development Incorporated is proposing an expansion to the mine and is therefore requesting permits to disturb eagles, which are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Hycroft is requesting a permit to remove unoccupied golden eagle nests and an additional incidental take permit to cover unintentional disturbance to and loss of eagles from their ongoing activities. With their permit application, Hycroft has submitted an eagle conservation plan that proposes proactive conservation measures to minimize the impacts to golden eagles and enhance eagle breeding opportunities in the region to offset unavoidable harm.
You can view the comlete description of the permit application and how to provide comments in the Federal Register notice here.
Alta East Wind Project
- Final EA Main Text
- Alta East FONSI
- Appendix A - Eagle conservation Plan
- Appendix B - Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy
- Appendix C - Tribal Contacts
- Appendix D - USFWS Fatality Estimate
- Appendix E - Golden Eagle Fatality Predictions
- Appendix F - BLM PA-FEIS Figure
- Attachment 1 - FEA Text
- Attachment 2 - Response to Comments
- Attachment 3 - Final Eagle Conservation Plan
Shiloh IV Wind Project
Resources and links
USFWS National Eagle Page
National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines
Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance (ECPG) Module 1 – Land-based Wind Energy Version 2 (April 2013)
Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines
California Nevada Golden Eagle Working Group
Solano County Montezuma Hills WRA reports
Altamont Pass WRA Scientific Review Committee
FieldNotes showcases the activities, events and conservation work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here in the Pacific Southwest Region. The articles inside are written by our employees and reflect the efforts of the Service and our partners in conserving and preserving the unique natural resources here in California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin. After you've visited FieldNotes, follow us on these social media channels...