OC bimonthly newsBRIEF (Dec-Jan 2017)

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from December 2017-January 2018.

The Ornithological Council seeks to:

  • Ensure that the best ornithological science is incorporated into legislative, regulatory, and management decisions that affect birds;
  • Enhance the ability of ornithologists to pursue professional activities; and
  • Promote the influence of ornithology in public affairs.

Our work focuses on animal welfare issues, permits, research funding, and other policies that affect ornithologists and ornithological societies.

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Received word that the USDA APHIS Animal Care program had revised two policy documents – its Animal Care Policy Manual and its Inspection Guide – to conform those documents to the Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Act regulations with regard to methods of euthanasia. These changes came about as a result of written requests and in-person discussions in 2016 and 2017 between the Ornithological Council and the Animal Care deputy administrator, APHIS general counsel, and other APHIS authorities. Those documents incorporated the AVMA euthanasia guidelines as the only acceptable methods of euthanasia. The documents now read, “Appropriate methods may include, but are not limited to, those described in the “AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia of Animals” and return the authority for approval of protocols, including methods of euthanasia, to the IACUC, consistent with the AWA.

2. As reported in the Aug-Sept newsBRIEF, OC reached an agreement with APHIS Animal Care to suggest language for a guidance document on the term “field study.” The agency had refused to seek stakeholder input or expertise until the OC asked the APHIS directorate to intervene. The OC has now assembled a discussion group that includes veterinarians from each of three federal agencies and we have asked a colleague from the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare to facilitate the discussion. The draft that we hope to present to Animal Care would then be subject to stakeholder input.

3. OC Executive Director Ellen Paul met with Customs and Border Protection officials to continue a discussion about resolving import problems resulting from the new CBP import declaration system known as ACE. A number of actions were identified and will be pursued, including a webinar about the import requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for ornithological specimens and samples and a companion reference document. For CBP’s part, the agency is exploring the development of an app that will give importers direct, easy access to the declaration system and has reached out to the OC to discuss the development of unique identifiers and other information about the import process. The CBP will also facilitate a meeting between the OC and airline cargo representatives to develop a standard process for ornithologists to assure that their imports appear on the cargo manifests, which will satisfy the mandatory advance notice requirement. At OC’s request CBP is also considering appointing a liaison/trouble-shooter.

4. OC Executive Director Ellen Paul spoke at the initial “21st Century Cures Act” stakeholder meeting organized by the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the APHIS Animal Care program. This legislation, enacted in 2016, mandates federal, interagency efforts to reduce administrative burden for researchers and institutions. Specifically, the mandate directs the agencies to complete a review of applicable regulations and policies for the care and use of laboratory [sic] animals. OC intends to participate in the ongoing process as fully as possible to assure that these agencies do not continue to develop policy that is ill-suited to wildlife research.

5. Neared completion of a new website, including state permits update.

6. Continued a major revision of import/export permit guide.

7. Responded to an inquiry from the Forest Service IACUC regarding methods for study of waterbirds; OC provided names of expertise and relevant literature.

8. Submitted a request to the Office of the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior requesting a determination that the Airborne Hunting Act does not prohibit the use of small unmanned aircraft (SUA) in ornithological research and monitoring. The request was supported by a peer-reviewed critical literature review summarizing the impacts of SUA on birds, a detailed legislative history, and a summary of the laws of all 50 states pertaining to drones. A formal petition for rulemaking was also submitted, asking that permits, if needed, be issued by the USFWS. Currently, the USFWS actually has a regulation that prohibits the agency from issuing those permits. OC has also reached out to The Wildlife Society and the Association of State Wildlife Agencies, seeking their support.

9. Continued to urge the USGS leadership to reconsider its decision to terminate its Biological Survey Unit, which curates and manages the USGS collection at the National Museum of Natural History. That decision was premised upon a very large funding cut in the proposed FY17-18 budget. However, the funding cut pending Omnibus appropriations act would be only 1/3 the size of the proposed cut, giving USGS an opportunity to re-visit this decision. The OC also shared the underlying information with the collections community and encouraged others to voice their concerns to the USGS.

10. Reached out to the Association of State Wildlife Agencies, seeking their support for changes in state regulations to exempt wildlife research from the “Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship” requirement, which rarely exists in the context of wildlife research and that, if routinely obeyed, would significantly hinder wildlife research conducted in the field, particularly with regard to access to pharmaceuticals needed for anesthesia and euthanasia.

11. Assisted eight following individuals with permit questions/problems (names appear in the reports to society leadership).

12. Assisted two individuals with animal welfare requirements (names appear in reports to society leadership).

13. Organizational news

The Raptor Research Foundation has appointed two new representatives to the OC Board. Bill Bowerman and Lloyd Kiff will take the places of Paul Napier and Steve Sheffield, each of whom had served on the OC Board since at least 2003.