Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl today sent a letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office in California to oppose a recent decision to cease traditional migratory bird programming in order to address a growing backlog of permitting, research and evaluation needs related to wind and solar energy projects in the western United States.
“This decision by the USFWS regional leadership is absolutely unacceptable,” Rohwer said. “The Service cannot simply put on hold its long-standing and legal mandate to manage waterfowl.”
An internal USFWS memo written by Eric Davis, assistant regional director for USFWS Region 8, declares that traditional migratory bird responsibilities — including work on the Pacific Flyway Council, assistance to habitat joint ventures and duck stamp and junior duck stamp program — will cease for the foreseeable future.
“Effective now, we will stop working on anything that is not related to renewable energy or the permit backlog,” Davis wrote. “The MBP (migratory bird program) priorities have shifted, at least in R8 (region 8). In R8, our top priority is renewable energy.”
The USFWS is responding to unprecedented pressure to deal with a burgeoning backlog of permits for new solar and wind development across the west, projects driven the enactment of the renewable energy standard, which prioritized development of new energy technologies. USFWS has a central role in the development of these plans, as solar and wind development projects have implications for migratory birds.
Delta Waterfowl is sympathetic to the difficult circumstances the USFWS faces.
“We recognize the pressure is mounting for the Service to address the backlog and the demands by the Administration and the public for new energy sources,” Rohwer said. “The Service staff is worn thin by these demands as well as the traditional programing they are tasked with. But we can’t watch the resources we care so much about get short shrift in the face of new priorities.”
The solution lies with the Administration, Department of Interior and the Service itself creating the capacity to deal with the new pressures, rather than simply redirecting existing funds and personnel.
“Ducks and duck hunters didn’t drive these decisions, and they certainly don’t deserve to be the ones solely bearing the burden,” Rohwer said.