WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and U.S. Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA) led a bicameral letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) urging the agency to streamline the permitting process to allow livestock and aquaculture producers greater flexibility in protecting their animals from avian predators shielded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
“We recognize there are federal processes in place for affected producers to manage protected avian predators. However, these processes are often insufficient to adequately address the problem,” members wrote in the letter.
Some predatory birds protected under the MBTA, such as double-crested cormorants, black vultures and ravens, can inflict serious harm upon livestock and fish. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates double-crested cormorants cause more than $25 million in damage annually for the aquaculture industry. USDA has also reported that black vultures are responsible for 10 percent of all calves lost to predators. While producers are permitted to use certain methods to protect their animals against these birds, the current permitting process is onerous for farmers and is often not enough to prevent loss or deter further predation.
“With populations of each species numbering well in the millions, they are thriving and face no immediate or foreseeable threat of extinction. It is incumbent upon the FWS to consider the growing economic losses inflicted upon livestock and aquaculture producers by these birds,” members wrote.
In addition to Boozman and Bishop, the letter is signed by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) as well as U.S. Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Rick Allen (R-GA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Tom Cole (R-OK), James Comer (R-KY), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Michael Guest (R-MS), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Billy Long (R-MO), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Austin Scott (R-GA), Jason Smith (R-MO), Mike Turner (R-OH), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Bruce Westerman (R-AR).
Full text of the letter below:
Ms. Margaret Everson
Principal Deputy Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Department of the Interior
Dear Deputy Director Everson:
We are writing to make you aware of the negative effects of avian predators on animal agriculture and aquaculture producers. Specifically, we direct your attention to predators protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). While the specific species of offending birds may vary by region, the primary offenders are black vultures (Coragyps atratus), double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auratus), and ravens (Corvus corax).
We recognize there are federal processes in place for affected producers to manage protected avian predators. However, these processes are often insufficient to adequately address the problem. In order to comply with the MBTA and its implementing regulations, those affected must annually apply for a depredation permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which producers must pay a fee to receive. These permits cap an applicant’s legal take, often at levels inadequate to prevent loss or deter further predation. While federal livestock indemnity programs do exist, it is far more cost-effective to the producer and the taxpayer to allow greater management flexibility to prevent avian depredation.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, often considered the world’s leading authority on the global conservation status of species, all of the aforementioned avian species are considered to be of “Least Concern,” the lowest of the IUCN’s threat assessments. Additionally, the IUCN lists each of these species as increasing in population. With populations of each species numbering well in the millions, they are thriving and face no immediate or foreseeable threat of extinction. It is incumbent upon the FWS to consider the growing economic losses inflicted upon livestock and aquaculture producers by these birds.
We urge the FWS to promulgate new rules that simplify and streamline the permitting process, as well as allow greater flexibility for livestock and aquaculture producers to protect their livelihoods from these avian predators.