I’ve got great news! The first big step toward greater access to peregrine falcons has been taken. I’m issuing this statement because it is reason for celebration, but also because the rumor mill has started grinding away online, and I want everyone to have the facts about where we are at with this process.
On Tuesday evening, the non-game technical section of the Atlantic Flyway Council discussed peregrine falcons during an annual meeting in West Virginia. USFWS biologist Brian Millsap attended by phone, and NAFA’s passage peregrine take committee member, Andrew Bullen was there in person. It was determined that a recommendation would be made to increase access for falconers in the three participating flyways from 36 permits annually to 144. (48 permits per flyway – Atlantic, Mississippi, & Central)
This recommendation did not appear out of thin air, and the number was not chosen randomly. There are a lot of details that could be shared, and a lot of work that went into getting us to this point. I will outline them further in a subsequent message at a later date, but for now, I want to quickly pass along what we know.
There are a couple of possible hang ups that might slow down the promulgation of these permits getting into our hands by this fall. We are optimistic that it will happen, but can’t be positive at this point. First off, a secondary review of the isotope analysis report is underway. This is customary, and no surprises are expected, but the permits are on hold until that second and final review is made available to the biologists on the flyway councils. Also, at this time, it seems that permits can be distributed without further involvement from the Service Regulatory Committee, but that determination has not been confirmed. Finally, we are waiting to hear the opinion of the USFWS solicitor on whether or not this change constitutes a “technical amendment” to the existing harvest protocol or whether a supplemental Environmental Assessment will be required. This final sticking point is sure to cause concern for many of the folks who have been keeping up with this issue, but I’ve received word from those involved that even if a supplemental EA is legally required, its focus will remain narrow and it will be finalized in time for the migration this fall.
So, there are some speed bumps in front of us, but they are navigable. I will keep our membership up to date on this process as I learn more, and when the permits are distributed, we will have cause for some serious celebration.
At this point, I have to publicly thank the pivotal contributors to making this happen and getting us to this point. Without the perfect storm of collaborators, this increase in permit numbers would never have happened. Don’t fool yourselves – the flyway council members were not about to recommend an increase without significant pressure, support, organization, and communication. The catalyst for the possibility of this increase was the recent population analysis published by Dr. Alastair Franke. Without him, there would truly have been nothing to act on. If there is a single member of NAFA deserving of the loudest applause at this moment in time, it’s Alastair, so thank you Sir! We owe you!
Our past President, Brian Millsap was quick to point out to me that he was simply doing his job, and that he doesn’t deserve any special recognition here, but the rest of us who have been involved all along would tell you that without good, data-driven biologists consulting with the Flyway Councils, we’d have been up a certain creek without the proverbial paddle, so thank you Brian.
Speaking of good, data-driven biologists, Craig Faulhaber of Florida serves the Atlantic Flyway Council as Chairman of the Raptor Committee. As soon as Craig stepped into that position, I developed a relationship with him, and began working toward this goal with him. He is exactly the kind of scientist that we like to see in his position. It’s no secret that decisions around peregrines have been emotionalized for a long time (and still are), but Craig is not guilty of any of that nonsense. He has been extremely professional and more than competent, and we owe him our gratitude.
There is a huge amount of additional information that I could include here, but I know that most members don’t care to read it all. The NAFA board knows that I’ve been keeping my foot to the gas pedal of this issue and have invested an untold number of hours into this project, and at this time I’d like to simply say that it has been my pleasure to do so.
The fact that we are even able to have these discussions and play a central role in this process is evidence enough that NAFA is a productive and effective organization. After 55 years of continued hard work by volunteers, we are still a highly respected organization that carries a lot of clout. It is truly my pleasure to serve the association at this time, with our current board, and to be trusted with the reputation that was earned by the hard work of NAFA leaders that came before me.
A LOT went into getting to this point, and in addition to those mentioned above, I owe great thanks to Canadian Director Martin Geleynse, Andrew Bullen, Dwight Lasure, Past President Ralph Rogers, Lynn Oliphant, Past-President Bob Welle, and Vice President Sheldon Nicolle.
I look forward to seeing a LOT more passage peregrines in the field at upcoming NAFA meets.