On Friday, June 20, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) announced its plans to engage the public in a review of how permits are issued for the non-purposeful take of bald and golden eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (“Eagle Act”). This process is a continuation of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking process, which began in April 2012 and focused on three general areas for public comment: eagle population management objectives, compensatory mitigation, and programmatic permit issuance criteria.
The Service will hold public meetings in Sacramento, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Denver, and Washington D.C. in July and August, and accept written comments by U.S. mail or via regulations.gov. Topics that will be highlighted at the public meetings are: permit duration, management objectives, programmatic permit conditions, criteria for nest removal permits, compensatory mitigation, and the low-risk project category.
The public meetings will serve as scoping meetings under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the Service will use the comments received to prepare either a draft Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement and proposed revisions to the eagle permit regulations. The deadline for submitting public comments is September 22, 2014. More information can be found in the Service’s news release, Federal Register notice, and eagle scoping website.
Meanwhile, the Service is processing programmatic eagle take permits but to date has not issued one for any project. And the American Bird Conservancy (“ABC”) followed through on its 60-day notice of intent to sue, asserting that the 30-year eagle permit rule does not comply with NEPA because the Secretary of Interior relied on a categorical exclusion. The ABC complaint also alleges that the rule contravenes the purpose of the Eagle Act and violates the Administrative Procedure Act.