Abandoning Core Migratory Bird Programs 'Totally Unacceptable'
Delta Waterfowl Foundation has called on a Western region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resume traditional migratory bird programming instead of focusing on renewable energy.
Since 2014, Region 8 of the USFWS — which covers California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin, located in northern California and southern Oregon — has made solar and wind energy its top priority, according to a Delta press release. Meanwhile, the group said, migratory bird programs there have suffered.
Nearly two years after the Region 8 leadership chose to cease core programming for migratory birds, our members, duck hunters and waterfowl are still left in the lurch, Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl, a leading conservation group dedicated to North American waterfowl and hunters, said in the release. It was totally unacceptable then, and it is even more so today.
In May 2014, Delta said in the release, Region 8's leadership de-prioritized traditional programming to deal with permit requests from the increasing demand for solar and wind projects in the area. The service said clearing the backlog would take about six months. Delta later received a copy of an internal memo saying the agency would suspend traditional migratory bird projects, including work on the Pacific Flyway Council, assisting in habitat joint ventures, and duck stamp and junior duck stamp programs.
Effective now, we will stop working on anything that is not related to renewable energy or the permit backlog, the press release quoted the memo as saying. The migratory bird program priorities have shifted, at least in Region 8. … Our top priority is renewable energy.
The Delta release said that decision was made at a time when USFWS migratory bird programming across the country had been significantly reduced, and when a prolonged drought in California had dropped breeding mallard numbers in the state to all-time lows and decreased wintering habitat for waterfowl and other birds. In addition, the shift affected states that work with USFWS to manage and monitor migratory birds.
We value the technical expertise we receive from USFWS representation at a flyway level, Jeff Knetter, chair of the Pacific Flyway Study Committee and game-bird program coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said in the release. Consequently, it is difficult to understand why Region 8 is not engaged. There are management concerns or issues for Aleutian Canada geese, tule white-fronted geese, sandhill cranes, white geese, brant and cinnamon teal in Region 8. As we conduct normal business and continue to update a number of management plans, we need to have representation from Region 8 at the table.
Delta acknowledged in the release that USFWS migratory bird programs throughout the country have suffered from a lack of resources. However, the group said, other agency regions continue to operate waterfowl programs while juggling heavy workloads related to renewable energy.
We appreciate the difficulty the USFWS faces every day to meet its historical priorities while balancing them against new and emerging issues such as solar and wind development, Rohwer said in the release. However, for USFWS leadership in Region 8 — which has the clear legal mandate and responsibility to manage migratory birds — to care only about renewable energy in the face of so many other challenges for ducks, geese and other migratory birds is simply wrong-minded. I think it shows a total disregard for duck hunters and others who have been the strongest and most committed constituents for the USFWS work.
At what point is someone going to be held accountable for ignoring a legal responsibility to manage all migratory birds, as well as a responsibility to waterfowlers?