May-June NewsBRIEF

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities in May and June 2021. The Ornithological Council’s mission is 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. We greatly appreciate your support. Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members. 

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its revocation of the controversial Trump-era rule that changed the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to no longer apply to incidental take. The comments stressed the inadequacy of the environmental analysis performed on the rule and encouraged the agency to revert to the previous interpretation of the MBTA. 

2. Contacted the Director of the Division of Select Agents and Toxins in the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response regarding concerns the OC has about the CDC’s requirements for certification and treatment of imports, after not receiving a response to our December inquiry. 

3. Secured representation for the ornithological community on a new National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine committee. Dr. William Bowerman, current Vice Chair of the Ornithological Council, was appointed as one of 13 members of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s new Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research. 

4. Attended virtual briefings by the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey on their proposed budgets for the 2022 Fiscal Year. While the OC does not engage heavily on appropriations issues, these briefings offer helpful insight into agency and departmental priorities for the coming year.

5. Launched a survey, in cooperation with the co-chairs of the American Ornithological Society’s Collections Committee, to gain insight into the current and recent permits for import under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service is in the process of changing the issuance of those permits, and will no longer permit ‘blanket’ import permits, instead requiring that all import permits list specific dates, species and numbers. We are conducting the survey in preparation for an upcoming meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Office staff. 

6. Continued work on our update of the Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research. We are currently in the process of reviewing the literature for new papers published since the 2010 publication of the current edition. New reference lists for each chapter will be made available on BIRDNET.org once completed, and once all chapter updates have been completed, a new PDF of the Guidelines with the new references will be compiled and posted online. 

7. Posted articles and updates on the Ornithology Exchange regarding:

Critical habitat designated for Yellow-billed Cuckoo

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces proposal to revoke MBTA rule

Draft recovery plan released for Rufa Red Knot

OC expresses concerns to CDC over import policy

Changes coming to USFWS ePermits login

OC Vice Chair William Bowerman named to ILAR committee

Biden administration releases budget proposal

The OC submits additional comments on the MBTA

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing Lesser Prairie Chicken

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases Birds of Conservation Concern report

Help the OC help ornithologists with MBTA permits: fill out our survey

More information on USFWS ePermits login changes

All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange.

The OC submits additional comments on the MBTA

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would revoke the controversial Trump-era rule that changed the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to no longer apply to incidental take (which was  originally set to go into effect on Feb. 8.)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period for an 30 days and today the Ornithological Council submitted comments on the rule, drawing on previous comments submitted by the OC in response to the scoping notice in February 2020, the draft environmental impact statement in July 2020, and the first re-opening of the public comment period in February 2021. The comments stressed the inadequacy of the environmental analysis performed on the rule and encouraged the agency to revert to the previous interpretation of the MBTA. 

The final rule has also been the subject of litigation, after a court in August 2020 struck down the internal Interior memo on which the new rule is based. The Trump administration had indicated its intent to appeal that case but in February the Biden administration withdrew its appeal. In January, environmental groups filed suit  asking the federal court to strike down the new rule. A group of states also banded together to file a similar lawsuit. 

Read the OC’s comments.

OC Vice Chair William Bowerman named to ILAR committee

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has appointed Dr. William Bowerman, current Vice Chair of the Ornithological Council, as one of 13 members of  a new standing committee on animal welfare. Last fall, the OC nominated Bowerman for the role, after the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research issued a call for nominate experts to serve on a new Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research. The new committee will help foster the exchange of ideas and knowledge on how best to make any future updates to the Guide for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, the primary guidance document for animal researchers.

Dr. Bowerman is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Toxicology and the Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Toxicology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a world-renowned expert on studying environmental change through its impact on eagle populations, and a highly-regarded researcher, teacher, and leader in the scientific community.

The OC has urged the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research to use this new standing committee as an opportunity to involve a subset of researchers that have been heretofore underrepresented by those involved with developing and publishing ILAR’s Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – wildlife professionals. The Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is widely applied to research conducted or funded by the federal government and is a suitable standard for biomedical research. However, it has little information relevant to wildlife research beyond general principles. It is crucial that scientists and researchers with experience working in the field are represented on the new committee and are able to offer their expertise and feedback on the committee tasks and deliberations. Four of the 13 standing committee’s members are involved in wildlife research; Dr. Bowerman is the sole ornithologist.

OC expresses concerns to CDC over import policy

The Ornithological Council contacted the Centers for Disease Control’s Center for Preparedness and Response, expressing concerns about the CDC’s current policy for import of biological materials, which requires that all imports of animal products be accompanied by documentation confirming that the animal or animal product is not known to contain (or suspected of containing) an infectious biological agent or has been rendered noninfectious. However, the policy does not indicate which infectious biological agents are of concern to CDC or provide any guidance regarding appropriate treatment methods. Without these two pieces of information, the documentation required by the CDC is very difficult for importers to produce.

The OC also reiterated our request that the CDC initiate a formal process to re-examine the requirements for the importation of non-living animal matter, which would allow the CDC to focus their policy on true threats using a risk analysis.

Read the OC’s letter here.

March-April NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from March and April 2021. The Ornithological Council’s mission is 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. We greatly appreciate your support. Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members. 

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Submitted comments to the Centers for Disease Control regarding their application for an import permit, noting the concerns that the OC has about the unclear requirements for CDC import permits and for treatment of samples imported under those permits.

2. Sent a letter to the new Interior Secretary Haaland, congratulating her on her confirmation and highlighting priorities of the OC.

3. Sent letters to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introducing the OC and offering our scientific expertise to the committee staff.

4. Continued discussions with the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) about animal welfare and wildlife issues. ILAR is planning a workshop on animal welfare issues associated with wildlife research and Bies will serve on the planning committee.

5. Continued the update of the Guidelines for the Use of Wild Birds In Research. Volunteers are leading chapter literature reviews, so that an updated version with new references for the last ten years can be released. Volunteers are still needed for two chapters: Transport of Wild Birds and Major Manipulative Procedures. Anyone interested in helping with those chapters should contact the OC (laurabiesoc@gmail.com).

6. Sent a fundraising email to users of the Ornithological Exchange asking for donations to the OC, in an attempt to generate a new revenue stream now that OSNA has disbanded (eliminating revenue from dues renewals) and the American Ornithological Society has withdrawn from the OC.

7. Posted articles and updates on the Ornithology Exchange regarding:

Northern Spotted Owl Habitat Reductions Delayed – Again

Canadian Council on Animal Care releases animal welfare assessment guidelines

Hawaiian Stilt to be downlisted from endangered to threatened

Over 30 bird species to be added to CITES Appendix III

The OC congratulates new Secretary of the Interior Haaland

Virginia passes incidental take regulation

Bird-safe Buildings Act Reintroduced

Interior rescinds controversial MBTA memo

Controversial ‘Open Science’ Secretarial Order rescinded

USFWS seeking input on CITES topics and positions

All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange. Each time the OC posts in the News from the OC forum, the link is sent to the OC society representatives to share with their networks. If your society would like these emails sent directly to someone else in your society, please let me know.

8. Provided individual assistance to two ornithologist regarding permits and two regarding animal welfare issues. Name and society affiliations available upon request.

9. Held its annual meeting to discuss recent actions, budgetary issues, and plans for the coming year. The board initiated a new planning effort to develop options and possibilities for the OC moving forward, in light of financial challenges caused by changes in OC member societies.