- What is it?
Migratory birds are some of nature’s most magnificent resources and play a significant role in the health of the environment, economy, and culture both in the United States and internationally. Each spring and fall season are marked by massive migrations along specific migratory routes called flyways; four occur in North America (Atlantic, Central, Mississippi and Pacific). The primary motivation for migration appears to be food and reproduction. The most common pattern involves flying north in the spring to breed in the temperate or Arctic summer, then returning in autumn to warmer regions in the south where greater food availability exists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been directed by Congress to ensure the perpetuation of migratory bird populations and their habitats. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and associated program seeks to conserve migratory bird populations and important bird habitats for future generations, through careful monitoring and effective population management.
- What has the Army done?
Army installations provide habitat to hundreds of species of migratory birds during the breeding and/or winter season during migration. Executive Order 13186 requires federal agencies to implement conservation and management programs to benefit and minimize impacts on migratory birds emphasizing migratory bird species of concern.
FWS and Department of Defense (DoD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in July 2006 that outlines a collaborative approach to promote the conservation of migratory bird populations. The MOU identifies specific activities where cooperation between the parties will contribute substantially to the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.
Natural resource management activities, including, but not limited to, habitat management, erosion control, forestry activities, agricultural outleasing, conservation law enforcement, invasive weed management, and prescribed burning
Installation support functions, including but not limited to, the maintenance, construction or operation of administrative offices, military exchanges, road construction, commissaries, water treatment facilities, storage facilities, schools, housing, motor pools, non-tactical equipment, laundries, morale, welfare, and recreation activities, shops, landscaping, and mess halls
Operation of industrial activities
Construction or demolition of facilities relating to these routine operations
Hazardous waste cleanup
- What does the Army have planned?
If the Army determines a proposed or an ongoing mission activity may result in a significant adverse effects to migratory birds, they must confer and cooperate with the FWS to develop reasonable conservation measures and minimize adverse effects. When implementing authorized military readiness activities, the prohibition on incidental take of migratory birds does not apply. A military readiness activity is defined as: “…all training and operations of the Armed Forces that relate to combat, and the adequate and realistic testing of military equipment, vehicles, weapons, and sensors for proper operation and suitability for combat use.” This does not include the routine operation of installation operating support functions, such as administrative offices, military exchanges, commissaries, water treatment facilities, storage facilities, motor pools, morale, welfare, and recreation activities, and mess halls; the operation of industrial activities; or the construction or demolition of facilities listed above. Currently no authorization exists under the MBTA to unintentionally take migratory birds during a non-readiness military activity. It is the FWS prosecutorial discretion whether to pursue a MBTA violation of unintentional take during a non-readiness military activity.
The Army Environmental Database - Environmental Quality (AEDB-EQ) includes specific data on migratory bird management that helps the Army plan how to best meet its obligations under MBTA and perpetuate its role as an active and effective steward of public land while conducting the military mission. This data will transition to the Headquarter Army Environmental System (HQAES). The data also provides the necessary information for the Army’s submission to the Defense Environmental Program Annual Report to Congress (DEPARC).
- Why is this important?
It is illegal to intentionally or unintentionally “take” a migratory bird under the MBTA without a permit from the FWS. A “take” is defined as “pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect.” However, there are a few exceptions to the rule: one is unintentional take during military readiness activities and another is the humane removal of migratory birds from inside a building (other than federal threatened or endangered species or eagles without a permit, 50 CFR Part 21.12(d) & 22).
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