How Can You Help? The comment period is open until December 20th. The BBC urges you to familiarize yourself with these proposed regulatory changes (described in detail below) and to comment on them, urging the FWS to make changes to their proposed definition of a "public institution" so non-governmental institutions like the Maryland Ornithological Society, Baltimore Bird Club and Natural History Museum can remain exempt from educational-use permit requirements. In addition, we would appreciate a copy of any comments you send. If you have questions or suggestions, contact Karen Morley at . The BBC and MOS will be sending formal comments as well.
The comment period is open until December 20th. Regulations available at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds. You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
Under the current permit regulations, certain entities are exempt from the permit requirements. These exempt entities include public museums, zoos and "public scientific or educational institutions". The Baltimore Bird Club, a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, Inc., falls into this category, which allows the BBC to "acquire by gift or purchase, possess, transport, and by gift or sale dispose of lawfully acquired migratory birds or their progeny, parts, nests or eggs without a permit." Over the years the BBC has legally acquired a large collection of non-living migratory specimens, many of which are on display at the Nature Museum at Cylburn Arboretum. The Nature Museum holds 250 mounted specimens of birds of Maryland as well as other migratory birds, and is visited by hundreds of people yearly. The specimens are also used by schools and state and local wildlife and land management agencies for educational and scientific purposes. In addition, MOS has specimens on display at some of the MOS sanctuaries.
How do these proposed changes in regulations effect the Baltimore Bird Club collections and museum? The major change would be in the addition of "clarifying language" that affects the definition of a "public institution" at 50 CFR 21.3. While a public institution would still be exempt from the permit requirements (50 CFR 21.12 (e)), the new definition makes no mention of a "scientific institution" and it defines a public institution as one which "is maintained, and/or operated by a Federal, State, tribal, or local government agency, such as a State university, municipal zoo, or county-run nature center." The BBC would not meet this definition (nor would the Natural History Society of MD) and we would be required to obtain a permit to operate the Museum in the current mode. (The BBC currently hold two Federal and State permits, one specifically for the Bald Eagles in the Nature Museum (50 CFR Part 22) and a second to collect bird specimens while monitoring downtown for Lights Out Baltimore (50 CFR Part 13, 50 CFR 21.27)). The proposed educational-use permits requirements can be found at 50 CFR 21.32 and focus mainly on husbandry requirements for keeping live birds for educational use. Most of these requirements would not apply to the BBC collection and are overly broad in relation to collections of non-living specimens.
The proposed regulations also include some changes to the Eagle Permits at 50 CFR Part 22 which do not impact the current BBC Eagle permits. Interestingly, one of the additions to those requirements is the definition of a public scientific society at 50 CFR 22.3. Under these regulations FWS may issue permits for the taking, possession, etc. of eagles for the scientific purposes of public scientific societies. (The BBC already has such a permit.) A public scientific society is defined as "an entity that conducts research in the field of wildlife conservation, ecology, ornithology, or other natural science, and make the finds of such research available to the public; or promotes public knowledge about science, biology, ecology, and/or wildlife conservation and either is open to the general public on a regular basis at least 400 hours per year or conducts at least 12 educational programs per year that are open to the general public." This definition could be used to define an exempt institution under the educational use permit requirements and would be consistent with the proposed eagle permit definitions.
Suggested comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service
We suggest that you let the Fish and Wildlife Service know that scientific and conservation organizations such as the Maryland Ornithological Society and its local chapters, such as the Baltimore Bird Club, serve a legitimate and important educational, scientific and conservation purpose and should continue to be exempt from the permit requirements of the new educational-use permits. Add any other heartfelt personal comments regarding the BBC Nature Museum, educating inner city children, etc. as well as the use of specimens for other educational and scientific purposes.
Here is a proposed opening:
"As a member of a local bird club and chapter of the MD Ornithological Society, I feel the definition of a "public institution" needs to be expanded or another exempt type of institution needs to be added to support the activities of many volunteer-run non-profit organizations such as Ornithological and Natural History Societies. These types of organizations, which have legally-obtained collections of non-live bird specimens that are used to educate the public about birds, hazards to birds, and conservation, need to remain exempt from educational-use permit requirements. These types of organizations generally do not deal with live animals and play a critical role in educating others about the environment, especially as government agencies and nature centers reduce programs to deal with budget issues. It is an undue burden on volunteer-run organizations to require permits."
Then go on to request that the Fish and Wildlife Service change proposed section 21.3 to include "a public scientific society" as a "public institution." The section would read:
Public institution means a public museum; public zoological park; a public scientific society; or a facility that is open to the general public, provides education through exhibits or regular programs, and is maintained and/or operated by a Federal, State, tribal, or local government agency, such as a State university, municipal zoo, or county- run nature center.The section would go on to define a public scientific society in the same manner as in proposed section 22.3:
Public scientific society means an entity that conducts research in the field of wildlife conservation, ecology, ornithology, or other natural science, and makes the findings of such research available to the public; or promotes public knowledge about science, biology, ecology, and/or wildlife conservation and either is open to the general public on a regular basis at least 400 hours per year or conducts at least 12 educational programs per year that are open to the general public.
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