Date: Thursday, September 10, 2009, 2:28 PM
Another good FWC meeting!!!
Yesterday, myself and Spence Wise spoke, once again, in front of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to support a peregrine harvest. The commissioners were asked to accept a draft rule for the harvest of passage peregrines. This rule was derived from the last stakeholder's meeting and fortunately for us, the commission is taking a simplistic approach.
If adopted the following rule will be added to our existing falconry rule.
"New 68A-9.005 (9)(f)
The take of peregrine falcons is prohibited except
as authorized by permit from FWC and consistent
with the rules and regulations adopted by the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The
Commission shall randomly select applications and
issue permits annually. Priority for receiving a
permit shall be given to Florida residents. Only one
application may be submitted per applicant."
In addition to Spence and I speaking in support of the harvest there were several speakers speaking against a harvest. Audubon of Florida, Humane Society of the US, Defender's of Wildlife all spoke out against the harvest and asked for many additional restrictions. One individual spoke about a few issues, she didn't seem to be against a harvest but suggested that the birds be released in the spring and that the FWC continue the monitoring in the Keys, suggesting that falconers pay for it.
A few common theme's coming from the animal rights groups were:
Monitoring of peregrines in the Keys. I spoke adamantly that the harvest of a handful of peregrines by falconers does not necessitate a monitoring program, that falconers have no impact and should not be required to pay for the $25,000 monitoring plan.
Release in the spring. All the groups seem to have attached onto this one as well. They stated that they're against peregrines being held "indefinitely" in captivity and that if they are allowed to be taken they should be released in the spring. A few commissioners asked the staff if any other states required such action and the answer was "NO".
The commissioners listened to all the information and decided to move forward with the draft rule, as written. The next, and last, step in the process will be at the December Commission meeting where the staff will ask the commissioners to accept a final rule. I do not suspect that there will be any changes to the draft when it goes into final language. I suspect the December meeting will be mostly a formality. But, I still encourage anyone that can to attend the meeting and speak.
The next battle will come in 2010 when the commission begins the process of revising our falconry regulations to comply with the new federal regulations. This process is scheduled to be completed by 2012 and I suspect the same groups that are opposing the peregrine harvest will be there to protest our sport. One of the major issues we will have to confront is a new fee for a Florida falconry permit. If permit fees are issued to cover the cost of peregrine monitoring that would equate to a $200 per year permit.
We have considerable time to work on this issue, Spence and I talked to several staff members at the meeting and I feel we can come up with a compromise solution.
After the meeting I was interviewed for an article by the Orlando Sentinel, here's the link if interested.
I have seen a few other article posted online by other newspapers and one blog post from the Sentinel that I responded to.
And below is the press release issued by FWC.
If I can answer any questions feel free to contact me any time.
Florida Falconers' Association
For immediate release: September 9, 2009
Contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130
Photo: Go to MyFWC.com/Newsroom and click on the headline for this story.
FWC approves draft rule to allow peregrine falcons for falconry
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) moved one step closer to allowing falconers to take peregrine falcons for the sport of falconry. At the meeting in Howey-in-the-Hills on Wednesday, the Commission directed staff to finalize the rule that authorizes the take of peregrine falcons for falconry with a permit issued by the FWC.
Seven speakers, including members of groups such as the Florida Falconry Association, North American Falconers Association, Florida Audubon of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife and Humane Society of the United States, provided input to the Commission on the draft rule. Those opposed to the falconry rule requested that the Commission find a way to fund a raptor-monitoring program that includes peregrines in the Keys.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a plan for peregrine management for falconry in December 2008. The plans allows for 36 peregrine falcons to be taken for falconry anywhere east of the 100th meridian. This area includes states from Maine to Florida to Texas to North Dakota. Florida is eligible for a small portion of that number, which will be allocated among the states that allow harvest.
“Falconers contributed to the successful conservation of the peregrine by providing birds for captive breeding so peregrines could be reintroduced,” said Robin Boughton, the FWC’s avian coordinator. “Many falconers would now like the opportunity to again use the birds in the sport of falconry.”
The peregrine is a highly valued bird by falconers for its 200-mph dives for prey. Falcons have been used by people for hunting for more than 1,000 years.
The USFWS took the peregrine off the endangered species list in 1999, and the FWC delisted the peregrine falcon in June, making it one of conservation’s greatest success stories. Today, scientists estimate there are at least 3,100 breeding pairs in the United States.
The FWC has met with stakeholders, including falconers and conservation groups, as the agency developed a management plan for the peregrine, which was approved in June. Staff has continued working with stakeholders as it drafted the rule to allow harvest of the peregrine for falconry.
Based on the allocations from 2009, Florida would most likely receive five or fewer permits for peregrines for falconry in 2010. Permit applicants would be randomly selected, with preference given to Florida residents.
Peregrines migrate as much as 15,000 miles per year, and on average, 1,700 peregrines migrate through Florida, including the Keys, in the fall as they move between northern breeding grounds and wintering areas in Central and South America. Some peregrines stay the entire winter in the state, but they do not breed in Florida. They can be spotted in the fall and winter over open terrain, particularly near coastal shorelines and wetlands.