Eagles Back in the Nest: FWS 30-Year Eagle “Take” Rule Vacated Less than Two Years After Implementation

On August 11, 2015, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California struck down a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) regulation that increased the maximum duration of programmatic permits for the incidental “take” of bald and golden eagles from five to thirty years (“the 30-Year Rule”)1. The decision sets aside the 30-Year Rule and leaves its fate in the hands of the Service, with potentially negative consequences for those entities that interact with avian resources. Without the 30-Year Rule, entities like wind farms—where avian interaction is effectively unavoidable—face serious questions related to securing permit coverage for their operations and prosecution for incidental take of eagles.

Moreover, until the 30-Year Rule is either reshaped through the administrative process or challenged on appeal, the previous rule—with its five year permit term and need for reapplication/NEPA review every five years—remains in place. Reapplication will trigger administrative burdens for both the permittee and the Service, with respect to both meeting the requirements of NEPA and the potential for appeals.

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