The OC congratulates new Secretary of the Interior Haaland

The Ornithological Council wrote to the new Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, congratulating her on her confirmation. In that letter, the OC also highlighted some priorities for the new administration, such as rescinding the previous administration’s dangerous reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and reviewing the grounding of the department’s fleet of unmanned arial vehicles, or drones.

Haaland was a freshman Representative during the 116th Congress, representing New Mexico, and served on the Committee on Natural Resources. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna and is the first Native American Secretary of the Interior – and the first Native American cabinet member.

January/February NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from January and February 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 regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in response to the agency’s decision to freeze implementation of the previous administration’s final rule and to reopen the comment period. The comments stressed the inadequacy of the environmental analysis conducted on the rule and urged a return to the previous interpretation of the MBTA. Learn more here.
  2. Prepared our 2020 Annual Report, highlighting our accomplishments during calendar year 2020. View or download the report here.
  3. Sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new principal deputy director, Martha Williams, congratulating her on her new position. That letter included the OC’s recommendations for the new administration. Read more here.
  4. Contacted the Director of the CDC’c Division of Select Agents and Toxins in the Center for Preparedness and Response regarding concerns the OC has about the requirements for certification and treatment of imports, after not receiving a response to our December inquiry.
  5. Began discussions with both the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) and the IACUC Administrators Association (IAA) 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. IAA is working on gathering and preparing resources for ICACUC administrators on wildlife and Bies will be assisting in that effort.
  6. Began the update of the Guidelines for the Use of Wild Birds In Research. We’re secured several volunteers to lead chapter literature reviews. But we still need a few more! Scroll down to the post below for more information.
  7. Met with staff from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center/Leetown Science Center, in a quarterly meeting we’ve established to share information and news and brainstorms ways to work better together.
  8. Posted articles and updates on the Ornithology Exchange regarding:

MBTA rule finalized by FWS

Interior Least Tern delisted

Critical habitat for Northern Spotted Owls Slashed

Lawsuits challenge MBTA rule

OC’s 2020 Annual Report released

Biden administration freezes MBTA rule; reopens comment period

New administration hits the ground running

The Ornithological Council welcomes FWS Deputy Director Williams

Notice from FWS regarding new online permit system

Implementation of Northern Spotted Owl habitat reduction delayed

The Ornithological Council submits (more) comments on MBTA

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

9. Provided individual assistance to one ornithologist regarding permits. Name and society affiliations available upon request. OC staff also assisted with getting the word out to the ornithological community when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new online permitting system accidentally sent an unnecessary email to all registered users.

10. Dealt with several administrative tasks such as developing a new handbook for incoming OC Board Members, drafting a new document retention policy, and reviewing old files to determine what to archive, what to digitize, and what to recycle.

We’re updating the Guide to the Use of Wild Birds in Research – and we need your help!

The Ornithological Council is planning a minor revision to the Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research. This foundational publication, now in its third edition, provides an in-depth guide to the animal welfare considerations when performing research involving wild birds, including ethical considerations and the legal framework that must be followed by researchers. Topics include investigator impact generally, collecting and trapping, marking, transport, housing and captive breeding, minor and major manipulative procedures, and euthanasia.

The last edition was published in 2010. The Ornithological Council is interested in compiling updated references from the last 10 years so we can include those in the next update. If you are aware of a methods paper relevant to a topic covered in the Guidelines, please submit the citation (and if you have it, a PDF of the paper or a link to it) to Laura Bies ( Also submit papers that are not methods papers per se but assess the impact of the study methods.

We are still looking for volunteers to coordinate the literature reviews for the chapters below. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Laura Bies at

Chapter 2. Impact of Investigator Presence
Chapter 4. Transport of Wild Birds
Chapter 7. Major Manipulative Procedures
2018 Supplement: Drones

The 2010 edition of Guidelines is available here.

The Ornithological Council submits comments on MBTA

Earlier this month, the Department of the Interior announced that it would freeze implementation of the controversial Trump-era rule that changed the enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to no longer apply to incidental take, which was set to go into effect on Feb. 8.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period for an additional 20 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 and the draft environmental impact statement in July 2020. 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.

Withdrawal of the rule by the Biden administration would not be entirely surprising; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who has been nominated for Secretary of the Interior, co-sponsored a bill during the last Congress to reverse the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of the MBTA.

The final rule is also the subject of litigation, after a court in August 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 last month, the Biden administration asked for more time to consider whether to withdraw.  In addition, environmental groups filed suit in two different cases in January asking the federal court to strike down the new rule. 

Read the OC’s comments: OC comments MBTA reopened Feb 2021

The Ornithological Council welcomes FWS Deputy Director Williams

The Ornithological Council has sent a letter to Martha Williams, congratulating her on her appointment as Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That letter included the OC’s recommendations for the new administration.

Williams began her career as an  attorney for Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, then served as Deputy Solicitor Parks and Wildlife at the Department of the Interior and worked as a professor at the Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana. Most recently, she was Director of Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Read the press release from the Department of the Interior, announcing William’s appointment, here.