OC working with National Academies on animal welfare workshop

Ornithological Council Executive Director Laura Bies has been selected to participate in a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s workshop planning committee for a workshop to be held in early 2022 on “Discussing and Understanding Animal Welfare Challenges in Research and Education on Wildlife, Non-Model Animal Species, and Biodiversity.”

The workshop will discuss the animal welfare challenges inherent in wildlife research, and will help inform the next edition of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s Guide for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, one of the primary guidance documents for researcher involving animals. That revision is being led by a new ILAR Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research. Dr. William Bowerman, current Vice Chair of the Ornithological Council, is one of 13 members of that standing committee, which is exploring expanding the current guidelines for humane care and use of animals both in traditional “brick-and-mortar” laboratory animal facilities and beyond (e.g., field laboratories and field stations, and terrestrial and aquatic settings under both captive and natural conditions).

The workshop will be held virtually on February 9-10 and will include presentations and panel discussions exploring topics and questions such as:

• enhancing veterinary and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) expertise on the health and welfare of wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species;

ways to improve the development and evaluation of IACUC protocols on research studies involving wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species interactions in captive and diverse natural environmental settings;

• the bioethics associated with fieldwork practices and unique considerations for wildlife and biologically diverse vertebrate animal species;

• the regulatory and management challenges associated with wildlife research; and

· the opportunities for enhancing collaborations between IACUCs and researchers studying wildlife;

More information about the workshop is available here.

July-August NewsBRIEF

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities in July and August 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. Contacted the Secretary of the Interior asking the department to reconsider its 2019 ban on the use of drones. The letter also asks Interior to move forward with regulations regarding the use of drones for wildlife research.

2. Participated in 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. 

3. Participated in planning an animal welfare workshop. OC Executive Director Laura Bies is currently participating in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Institute for Laboratory Animal Research’s workshop planning committee for a workshop to be held in early 2022 on “Discussing and Understanding Animal Welfare Challenges in Research and Education on Wildlife, Non-Model Animal Species, and Biodiversity.” 

4. Met with the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Birds program, to discuss the agency’s policy change regarding permits for import under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Service will no longer issue ‘blanket’ import permits, instead requiring that all import permits list dates, species and numbers. During the meeting, USFWS staff and OC Executive Director Bies discussed results from the recent survey of ornithologists conducted by the OC in cooperation with the co-chairs of the American Ornithological Society’s Collections Committee to gain insight into the current and recent MBTA import permits.

5. Participated in a quarterly meeting with Bird Banding Lab staff, to discuss issues of mutual interest. 

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 are being 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. Provided direct individual assistance to ornithologists who belong to OC member societies regarding how to obtain the permits necessary to complete their research. During July and August, assistance was offered to three individuals. 

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

Ornithological Council urges Interior to re-think drone ban

USFWS proposes listing Emperor Penguins as threatened under ESA

Legislation reintroduced to ensure MBTA covers incidental take

Northern Spotted Owl Habitat Revised

APHIS releases final guidance on field studies

Red Knot critical habitat proposed

Ornithological Council urges Interior to re-think drone ban

The Ornithological Council recently reached out to the Department of the Interior, asking it to reconsider its 2019 ban on the use of drones. The letter also asks the department to move forward with regulations regarding the use of drones for wildlife research.

In late 2017, the Ornithological Council asked the Office of the Solicitor to advise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, and the state agencies that the use of drones for wildlife research is not subject to the Airborne Hunting Act. It also asked that if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones to study wildlife is subject to the AHA, then the Solicitor should address the need for federal permits because there are few, if any, state laws pertaining to drone use for wildlife research and monitoring.

Then, in early 2018, the OC filed a petition for rulemaking, asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue permits for the use of drones to study wildlife. That petition for rulemaking proposed the changes necessary for the USFWS to issue permits under the AHA, since, if the Solicitor determines that the use of drones for wildlife research is covered by the AHA, permits would be needed

Given that Interior has not yet taken action on that petition, this week’s letter asks them to move forward and also addresses the ban on the use of drones by Interior employees put in place in 2019.

Read the OC’s letter here.

More background on the use of drones to research birds is available here

The OC’s fact sheet on drones is available here.

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.