Update from the OC: Sept. 2020

While the COVID pandemic may have canceled field seasons, moved conferences online, and caused many of us to shelter at homes for prolonged periods, the Ornithological Council has been busy over the past several months. This update will give you a sense of what we’ve been up to…

Long-time Executive Director Ellen Paul retired in May and Laura Bies, formerly with The Wildlife Society, took her place. Now in a half-time position, Bies has been working to update the OC’s website, meet with key partners, and otherwise continue the important work that Paul had underway.

Recently, OC staff has worked to update the permitting information on our website. We have also released an updated version of A Guide to the Permits and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United State for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive guide, which was thoroughly updated this year, provides a step-by-step guide for ornithologists who are importing birds or bird products into the U.S. for research and display, including template documents and checklists to follow. The Import Guide is available to download for free from the Ornithological Council’s website at BIRDNET.org, as a service to the ornithological community.

We have also posted a number of articles on OrnithologyExchange recently, to keep ornithologists up to date on policy issues that may affect them. You can read them all in the ‘News From the Ornithological Council’ forum.

If you have a question about a permitting or animal welfare issue, do not hesitate to reach out to the Ornithological Council. We’re available to help members of our ten societies navigate challenges with securing the necessary permits for their work or with gaining IACUC approval for their research.

The Ornithological Council has recently faced financial challenges, related mostly to the withdrawal from the OC of the American Ornithological Society on July 1. While their exit has had large financial repercussions for the OC, we have adjusted staffing and the services we offer so that the OC can continue to serve the ornithological community. However, we still need your help. If you’d like to support our important work, please visit our website, BIRDNET.org, and scroll down to the ‘donate’ button at the bottom of the screen – or simply follow this link. We truly appreciate your contributions, as they allow us to continue to serve the ornithological community. 

July/August NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities during July and August 2020.

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. 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. Completed a major revision to the Guide to the Permits and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United States for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive resource was last updated in 2010 and since that time many agency procedures have changed. The updated import guide was released today.

2. Updated the Ornithological Council’s website, BIRDNET.org, specifically the permits section. Added information regarding Endangered Species Act and CITESpermits. Completely updated the 50 pages detailing the requirements for all U.S. States.

3. Submitted comments to the Department of the Interior in response to the draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the administration’s new rule limiting the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exclude incidental take.

4. Posted on Ornithology Exchange regarding the Bird-Safe Building Act, our comments on the MBTA DEIS, the USFWS proposed definition of habitat, the MBTA district court case, the USFWS’s reduction of critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, the OC policy change to limit individual assistance, and APHIS restrictions on Australian imports. All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange.

5. Held virtual meetings with staff from the USGS Bird Banding Lab, to introduce new ED Bies and get to know staff.  Meetings between OC and the BBL will be held quarterly moving forward, to ensure open communication.

6. Explored a new policy which would limit individual assistance from the OC staff to individuals who are members of the 10 OC societies. Learn more here.

7. Provided individual assistance to 2 individuals regarding permits and 1 individual regarding animal welfare.  Names and society affiliations available upon request.

As always, we appreciate your support of the Ornithological Council!

The Ornithological Council releases updated Import Guide

The Ornithological Council has released an updated version of A Guide to the Processes and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United State for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive guide, which was thoroughly updated this year, provides a step-by-step guide for ornithologists importing birds or bird products into the U.S. for research and display, including template documents and checklists to follow.

The Import Guide is available to download for free from the Ornithological Council’s website at BIRDNET.org, as a service to the ornithological community.

It contains sections on the import permitting requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA APHIS, and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as information about planning your travel and how to ship your specimen. It leads the ornithologist through the entire process, from paperwork to port and beyond. In addition to the hard-and-fast rules and requirements, this guide also offers best practices and helpful hints.

The guide will be updated regularly as agency permitting requirements change, keeping ornithologists in compliance with the many laws and regulations governing the import of bird products. If you have any questions after reading the Import Guide or find areas that require further clarification, please contact Laura Bies (laurabiesoc@gmail.com), Executive Director of the Ornithological Council

About the Ornithological Council

The Ornithological Council is a consortium of 10 scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management.  The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our ten member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating to the OC directly. Thank you for your support!

Proposed policy will limit OC services to members

The Ornithological Council (OC) has provided the ornithological community with individualized expert advice regarding permitting and animal welfare issues for more than 25 years. However, due to financial constraints imposed by a change in society membership in the OC, the OC Board is considering adopting a new policy that would restrict the assistance of the OC staff on permitting and animal welfare issues to only those individuals who are members of the 10 societies that make up the OC. This change is due to the withdrawal of financial support by the American Ornithological Society as of July 1, 2020.

Almost all funding for the Ornithological Council’s activities come from its member societies, with some coming from individual donors. The Ornithological Council (OC) was founded in 1992 as a non-profit organization by the American Ornithologists’ Union, Association of Field Ornithologists, Cooper Ornithological Society, Pacific Seabird Group, Raptor Research Foundation, Waterbird Society, and Wilson Ornithological Society. The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (now BirdsCaribbean), Seccíon Mexicana del Consejo Internacional para la Preservacíon de las Aves (CIPAMEX), the Society of Canadian Ornithologists/Société des Ornithologistes du Canada, the Neotropical Ornithological Society, and the North American Crane Working Group have joined in recent years. The American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society merged to form the American Ornithological Society in 2018 and then withdrew from the OC effective 1 July 2020.

With the recent change in the OC’s funding, the organization’s resources are extremely strained. The Executive Director position has moved from a full-time to a half-time position and the OC Board is forced to consider this change in policy. Under the new policy, the OC staff would only be able to offer individualized, expert advice on permitting and animal welfare issues to individuals who are members of one of the OC member societies. This will allow the OC to continue to provide resources and services for the ornithologists who support the professional societies who in turn support the OC. Advice will be provided to individuals who are not members of an OC society only in cases of demonstrated financial hardship.

We realize that many members of the ornithological community are members of just the American Ornithological Society and not other OC member societies, and therefore they will not be eligible for assistance from the OC. While the OC offers valuable resources to the ornithological community as a whole and to the public for free, making all services free without restriction is not sustainable.

If this proposed change in policy means that you will no longer be able to take advantage of the OC’s expertise and you feel this will be a detriment to you professionally, please consider reaching out to AOS directly and explaining the value of the OC to you and the ornithological community. You might also consider becoming a member of an OC member society.

OC Submits Comments on MBTA draft EIS

The Ornithological Council submitted comments on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Service prepared to analyze the effects of their proposal to no longer enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in cases of incidental take.  Our comments conclude that the draft EIS is simply insufficient to assess the potential effects of the proposal.

The EIS itself is relatively brief – only 69 pages, as opposed to the government average 586 pages. The analysis of the effects on migratory birds is only a few paragraphs.  Understanding the effect of no longer prohibiting incidental take under the MBTA is obviously a huge task, requiring information about all the species protected under the Act. What the Service prepared comes no where close to achieving this. In its comments the OC recommended that the Service abandon this planning effort and begin again with a new document that is subject to peer review and which includes a path forward that involves best practices to prevent incidental take and cooperation between the Service and industry.

BACKGROUND: Until this administration, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was interpreted to cover both intentional and unintentional take (harm or killing) of species covered by the Act. The USFWS under this administration developed a policy known as an M-Opinion, which is internal agency policy, stating that the law does not prohibit incidental take of migratory bird species protected under the Act. In January, it released a regulatory proposal to codify that interpretation and in June it released the draft EIS for public comment.