[Federal Register: November 20, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 224)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 69726-69728]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 69726]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 21

RIN 1018-AH71

Migratory Bird Permits; Review of Falconry Education Permits

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Request for comments.


SUMMARY: We are soliciting public comments to help us develop options 
for regulating falconry education facilities. We have two pending 
applications for permits to conduct falconry and conservation 
educational programs with migratory birds pursuant to section 704 of 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as amended. Some of the 
activities outlined in these applications constitute the practice of 
falconry by instructors and participants. Falconry is specifically 
regulated under certain Fish and Wildlife Service regulations, and only 
persons who qualify for falconry permits by meeting minimum 
requirements may possess raptors (birds of prey) for their use in 
hunting prey. The applicants' programs feature instructors who maintain 
falconry permits, but they seek to exempt their participants from 
meeting minimum requirements and obtaining falconry permits. We are 
requesting public comments on whether we should deny these permit 
requests, or whether we should amend the falconry regulations to create 
additional, and less restrictive, opportunities for the public to 
participate in falconry.

DATES: Written comments should be submitted by January 19, 2001, to the 
address below.

ADDRESSES: You may mail or deliver comments to the Division of 
Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North 
Fairfax Drive, Room 634, Arlington, Virginia 22203. You also may submit 
comments via the Internet to: falconry__programs@fws.gov. See 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for file formats and other information about 
electronic filing.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon Andrew, Chief, Division of 
Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; (703) 358-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Please submit Internet comments as an ASCII 
file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of encryption. 
Please also include your name and return address in your Internet 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation that we have received 
your message, contact us directly at (703)358-1714.


    Falconry is the sport of hunting with trained raptors to take game 
animals, such as rabbits and squirrels, as defined in 50 CFR 21.3. In 
1972, raptors came under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty 
Act, and in 1976 we promulgated regulations for a joint State/Federal 
falconry program. The regulations set rigorous requirements for entry 
into the sport, specified raptor housing and equipment standards, and 
set stringent reporting and marking requirements. Somewhat cautionary 
and restrictive, the regulations were promulgated at a time when there 
was considerable concern over the diminished status of many raptor 
populations. The falconry regulations reflected a sincere attempt to 
satisfy diverse and often conflicting interests while at the same time 
providing adequate protection for raptors. In 1989, we amended the 
regulations to establish simpler, less restrictive rules governing the 
use of most raptors because their populations were generally 
increasing, and the number of falconers was relatively small.
    Currently, approximately 4,000 persons are permitted to practice 
falconry in the United States, and 400 persons are permitted to breed 
raptors in captivity. Persons who want to practice falconry must comply 
with the falconry regulations in 50 CFR 21.28-29, in addition to 
complying with State falconry and hunting laws. Persons who want to 
breed raptors must comply with the raptor propagation regulations in 50 
CFR 21.30, in addition to complying with State wildlife propagation 
    The falconry regulations require individuals to have knowledge, 
experience, equipment, and raptor housing before we may issue them a 
falconry permit. Permits are issued in three classes--Apprentice, 
General, and Master--depending on the applicant's age and experience. A 
person must have a Federal (and State) falconry permit before they may 
possess raptors, train them by various handling techniques, and use 
them in hunting. The regulations also prescribe the species and numbers 
of raptors that falconers may possess, which vary by the class of 
permit. We further allow permitted falconers to use the birds in their 
possession for conservation education and the demonstration of falconry 
to audiences.

Special Purpose Permits

    Two applicants have requested permits issued under Special Purpose 
(50 CFR 21.27) to possess raptors to use in falconry and conservation 
educational programs. Because of the wide nature of permits that may be 
issued under Special Purpose, we determine these permit conditions 
individually. We have issued numerous Special Purpose permits for 
conservation education purposes, and the conditions for these permits 
are largely standardized due to the large numbers of this type. Most of 
these conservation education permits authorize the possession of 
raptors for use in programs where birds are displayed to an audience, 
and the audience participants are not allowed to handle the birds.
    We have previously issued three Special Purpose permits for 
falconry and conservation education facilities, and two of these 
permits remain active. These active permits are issued to the British 
School of Falconry (BSF), Manchester, Vermont; and the Falconry and 
Raptor Education Foundation (FAREF), White Sulphur Springs, West 
Virginia. In general, we authorized these permittees to possess a 
specified number of raptors listed in 50 CFR 10.13. This authorization 
allowed the facilities to have more birds than they could possess under 
their instructors' individual falconry permits, which allows them to 
provide falconry opportunities to more participants.
    The permits issued to BSF and FAREF require the birds to be 
captive-bred, and also require the facilities to comply with certain 
parts in the falconry regulations, including raptor housing, leg-
banding for identification, and submission of raptor acquisition report 
forms. Although we require the instructors at the BSF and FAREF to 
maintain either General or Master class falconry permits, we do not 
require participants to obtain their own permits.
    The BSF and FAREF programs allow participants without prior 
experience to handle the birds in various ways. Typically, the 
instructor first places a raptor on the gloved hand of each 
participant. The participant then grasps a leash attached to the bird's 
legs, and releases and recalls the bird using whistles and food 
rewards. Both facilities also provide raptor conservation educational 
programs to the public, which may include the limited handling of birds 
on the gloved hand of several audience members.
    The permit issued to the BSF expires on December 31, 2000. The 
permit issued to the Falconry and Raptor

[[Page 69727]]

Education Foundation expired on December 31, 1999, but because they 
submitted a renewal application at least 30 days prior to the 
expiration date, their permit is still active. Additionally, we have 
received a new application from New England Falconry, Shutesbury, 
Massachusetts, for a similar, but expanded, Special Purpose permit.
    The new applicant requests a permit to possess captive-bred Harris 
hawks, prairie falcons, and peregrine falcons for the purpose of 
educating the public about falconry, raptors, conservation and the 
environment, through the experience of falconry. The applicant requests 
to provide a variety of educational programs, including programs 
similar to those provided by the BSF and FAREF, which allow the 
handling of birds. In addition, the applicant requests authority to 
provide hunting programs, wherein the participant would hold a lofting 
pole (T-shaped pole with perch on top), and the instructor would place 
the raptor on the pole. The bird, although trained to respond to 
handlers, would be physically unrestrained, and could fly at prey 
flushed by dogs. If a kill is made, the instructor would remove the 
bird from the prey, and return it to the lofting pole held by the 
participant. Previously, we had expressly prohibited the BSF from 
conducting similar hunting programs after determining that the 
participants were clearly practicing falconry as defined in 50 CFR 

Determination of the Scope of Falconry

    Because we have received public comments regarding these permits, 
we reviewed the falconry regulations and the definitions provided in 50 
CFR 10.12 and 21.3. We have determined that participants at the BSF and 
FAREF are practicing falconry as defined and regulated under 50 CFR 
21.28-29 and therefore must fully comply with these regulations. In 
arriving at this determination, we concluded that the falconry 
regulations clearly encompass all activities relating to the sport of 
falconry, including the housing, handling, and training of raptors, in 
addition to their use in hunting.
    We now need to determine whether to continue to allow the operation 
of falconry educational facilities, and, if so, with what requirements. 
In order to allow their continuation, we must either impose a handling 
restriction for participants on these Special Purpose permits (similar 
to most other educational permits), or expand the falconry regulations 
by amendment.

Public Comments Solicited

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments on continuing to 
allow the operation of falconry education facilities in the United 
States. We request suggestions, materials, recommendations, and 
arguments. We invite comments from the public; permitted falconry 
facilities; falconry organizations; environmental organizations; 
corporations; local, State, Tribal and Federal agencies; and any other 
interested party. Please ensure that any comments submitted in response 
to this request for comments pertain to issues presented in this 
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/
or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials or organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    Comments are particularly sought concerning the following issues:
    (1) Whether we should amend the falconry regulations to allow the 
operation of falconry education facilities to include active 
participant handling of raptors.
    (2) Whether participants at hands-on falconry education facilities 
should be required to obtain individual permits, and what type(s) of 
permit classes should be created for participants, with requirements 
such as age, examinations, and experience.
    (3) What type(s) of permitting requirements should be created for 
these facilities, and the requirements for obtaining these permits, 
such as instructor qualification, raptor equipment and housing, and 
commercial status of the facilities (profit vs. nonprofit).
    (4) What program restrictions should be placed on falconry 
education facilities, such as limiting participants to raptor handling 
by release and recall only, or whether participants should participate 
in hunting activities, and how.
    (5) What program requirements should be placed on falconry 
education facilities, such as requiring a specified core curriculum, or 
requiring that conservation education be included.

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    (6) Which raptor species should be used, and/or whether species 
used at falconry education facilities should be limited to 
nonindigenous species, which do not require MBTA permits.
    (7) What benefits are obtained by participants in falconry 
education facilities, including whether participants have easier access 
to explore the sport of falconry, and whether participants have used 
their experience to better qualify for an Apprentice class permit.
    (8) Whether participants gain enough knowledge to properly handle 
raptors without harming the birds or themselves.
    (9) Whether more people will apply for falconry permits after 
attending falconry education facilities, and whether suppliers of 
captive-bred raptors (regulated under 50 CFR 21.30) could provide for 
an increased demand for birds, or whether impacts to wild stock may 
    (10) Whether the falconry education facilities generally contribute 
to awareness of the resource by teaching more people about the 
conservation of raptors.
    (11) How the economies of local communities would be impacted by 
the co-location of a falconry education facility.
    (12) How raptor propagators may be affected economically from 
changes in sales of captive-bred birds.
    (13) How State wildlife agencies would be affected, including 
whether administrative workloads would increase, whether amended 
regulations would conflict with State laws, and whether States would 
have greater or reduced flexibility in administering the joint 
permitting system.
    We welcome comments on the issues described above and encourage the 
submission of new options or any suggestions.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This request for comments does not contain new or revised 
information collection for which Office of Management and Budget 
approval is required under the Paperwork Reduction Act. Information 
collection associated with migratory bird permit programs is covered by 
an existing OMB approval No. 1018-0022, which expires on 02/28/2001. 
The Service may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a current 
valid OMB control number.

Authorship: The primary author of this notice is Diane Pence, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, 
Massachusetts 01585.

    Authority: The authority for this notice is the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act of 1918, as amended (16 U.S.C. 703-712).

    Dated: November 9, 2000.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-29562 Filed 11-17-00; 8:45 am]