Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Migratory Birds Permit Staff (from left) Larry Harrison, Deanne Endrizzi, Richard Rottman and Jason Mercado. Photo by USFWS.

Migratory Birds Permit Staff (from left) Larry Harrison, Deanne Endrizzi, Richard Rottman and Jason Mercado. Photo by USFWS.

Migratory Bird Permits:
What We Do and Why We Do It

There is no better time, as we prepare to celebrate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial in 2016, to reflect on what can be referred to as the tugboat of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the small but mighty engine that brings the huge vessel of regulatory policy that is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to dock where it can be used to conserve what is arguably some of our most valued natural resources, birds.

The Service’s Migratory Bird Permits program, the mighty tugboat above, is comprised of around 25 permits chiefs, biologists and examiners nationwide who issue and manage more than 40 different types of permits. Some are quite rare, such as the FALSCL (Falconry School), a permit that is required for those who would like to operate a school that teaches the sport of falconry. Some are more common, such as the taxidermy permit, of which there are currently over 7,000 nationwide. Nonetheless, the program issues and manages about 20 of the 40 types of permits on a regular basis.

In the Midwest Region, the Permits program is comprised of four permits specialists; Larry Harrison, Chief of Permits; Deanne Endrizzi, Eagle Biologist; Richard Rottman, Legal Instruments Examiner; and me, Jason Mercado, Legal Instruments Examiner.

Similar to how the colors of birds are often reflective of their environments, the permits that are issued are reflective of each region’s environment. Because of the region’s vast biodiversity and large human population, the Midwest Region’s permit office currently manages more than 5,000 active permits.

But a number is just a number, why are these permits issued? A detailed answer to this question is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that permits are issued to ensure compliance with federal regulations for those who wish to work within a bird conservation capacity.

Permits allow folks to work with birds in a variety of areas, including education, rehabilitation, propagation, taxidermy, salvage, scientific collecting and a myriad of other areas. There are also permits that authorize possession of eagle feathers for Native-American religious and ceremonial use.

The Service also employs biologists who strictly deal with eagles. Eagle Biologist Deanne Endrizzi, along with field biologists Mags Rheude, Drew Becker and Chris Mensing, devote much of their time coordinating eagle take and scientific collecting permits. Eagles, which are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, require the attention of specialists who can focus on issues that are challenging on both biological and social levels. This is to be expected when dealing with our national symbol.

Conservation professionals and university professors aren't the only ones who apply for permits. Many applicants are homeowners who might not be able to tell the difference between a pileated and downy woodpecker. But one thing is for sure, they know what a woodpecker is. While they are incredibly interesting birds they can cause hundreds of dollars worth of damage to the siding of homes as they search for food. A depredation permit is required to deal with this issue.

Currently the Midwest Region’s Permits staff manages around 780 depredation permits, which allow for handling incidents that range from the aforementioned woodpecker damage, to farm crop predation, and trap and relocation of offending birds, just to name a few.

In addition, depredation permits authorize airports around the region to manage birds that cause safety hazards on runways. It is fair to say that at least one airport that you have traveled through has been made safer through the efforts of the Migratory Bird Permits Office.

But the work is not all paper pushing and data entry; coordination with the public, state conservation officers, law enforcement and other stakeholders is also a major task of the permits staff. In fact, often times the public’s only interaction with the Service is with the permits office. As a result, customer service is a major component of the job.

Everyday there are people, like you and me who happen upon injured birds. Perhaps they find carcasses and curiosity ensues. Maybe a schoolteacher has questions about salvaging birds for their science class. Or maybe there is a general question about our feathered friends of the skies. There is any number of reasons why people might reach out to the Service. Through the use of partnerships, both internally and externally, much like the tugboat guiding the vessel to dock, the permits office is able to help folks navigate their way through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

By Jason Mercado
Regional Office - Migratory Birds

Last updated: June 4, 2015