As part of efforts to protect and conserve eagle populations and provide more certainty to industry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing its final revised regulations for how it processes permits related to the incidental take of bald and golden eagles. While the recovery of bald eagles stands as a significant success in wildlife conservation, the future of golden eagle populations remains uncertain, and the Service remains committed to upholding the highest standards of compliance with laws to protect these species.
By simplifying the permitting process and developing a standard approach for take through general permits, the Service expects an increase in permit applications under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. With broader participation in the voluntary permit program, more projects will be consistently implementing avoidance, minimization and compensatory mitigation measures with the goal of increasing the conservation of eagles.
The Service has collaborated with stakeholders during the last few years to create conservation efforts that address increased interaction between eagles and various infrastructure types and development activities. These joint initiatives led to the development of best management practices that are reflected in the new permitting approach and will provide increased opportunities for industry to protect eagle populations.
“This regulation is a win for eagles and a win for critical infrastructure, such as power lines and wind energy projects,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “These innovative regulations establish more expedited general permits where activities and infrastructure pose low risks for bald and golden eagles, allowing the Service to direct our resources toward permit applications and conservation issues that will have the largest impact on eagle conservation. Through a collaborative and transparent process, we've streamlined the permitting process, making it more efficient while ensuring the preservation of these iconic species for future generations.”
The revised regulations include a new system of general permits in addition to the specific-permit system the Service has used in the past. These general permits allow applicants to receive immediate authorization by certifying that they meet eligibility requirements and commit to implementing pre-identified conservation measures like designing equipment to reduce harm to eagles. The general permits are designed for situations that pose low risks to eagle populations and are an alternative approach to authorize wind-energy generation projects, power-line infrastructure, disturbance of breeding bald eagles and bald eagle nest take. The Service will continue to review specific permits for situations that have high or uncertain risks to eagles to further the preservation of eagles. The Service also made improvements to the specific permit requirements and process, clarified definitions, and revised the permit fee. The updated approach to fee collection will support staffing and an online permit system for efficient processing, as well as continued conservation improvements such as GPS tracking to monitor populations and validation of additional methods to protect and benefit eagle populations.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits harm, possession, or disturbance of bald and golden eagles, their parts, nests, or eggs, except as permitted by federal regulations. The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to issue regulations allowing the taking of eagles for various purposes, provided it is compatible with the preservation of these species.
Permits for the incidental, or unintentional, take of eagles were first established in 2009, then revised in 2016 to authorize incidental take of bald eagles and golden eagles that results from a broad spectrum of activities, such as utility infrastructure, energy development, residential and commercial construction and resource recovery.
In September 2021, the Service published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input from Tribal governments, the public and the regulated community on maintaining and strengthening protections for eagles while considering potential approaches for further expediting and simplifying the permit process authorizing incidental take of eagles. In September 2022, the Service published a proposed rule and draft environmental assessment with approaches to improve the eagle incidental take permitting program to make the permitting process more efficient and effective. This final rule reflects additional adjustments to help streamline this process, following public input received through the public comment process.
In parallel to this rulemaking, the Service is continuing to review and approve mitigation providers and new compensatory mitigation methods that reduce threats and benefit eagle populations. The Service has already authorized methods for power pole retrofits and is actively working on additional mitigation methods. The Service encourages anyone interested in becoming a mitigation provider or with ideas for other mitigation measures to contact us.
The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on February 12, 2024, and will go into effect 60 days following publication, on April 12, 2024. The notice is available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0023.
More information can be found online at: https://fws.gov/regulations/eagle.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visitwww.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.