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Delta Waterfowl Calls for USFWS Region 8 to Shift Focus Back to Key Migratory Bird Programming

Delta Waterfowl Calls for USFWS Region 8 to Shift Focus Back to Key Migratory Bird Programming

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Delta Waterfowl continues to be frustrated by the lack of progress being made by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leadership in Region 8 (California, Nevada and Klamath Basin) in restoring traditional migratory bird work. In May 2014, regional leadership de-prioritized traditional programming to deal with permit requests arising from growing demand for solar and wind projects in the region. At the time, it was anticipated that clearing the backlog of work would take six months.

“Nearly two years after the Region 8 leadership chose to cease core programming for migratory birds, our members, duck hunters and waterfowl are still left in the lurch,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl. “It was totally unacceptable then, and it is even more so today.”

In May 2014, Delta received a copy of an internal memo which stated that the agency was suspending its traditional migratory bird responsibilities — including work on the Pacific Flyway Council, assistance to habitat joint ventures and duck stamp and junior duck stamp programs. The memo stated: “Effective now, we will stop working on anything that is not related to renewable energy or the permit backlog. The MBP (migratory bird program) priorities have shifted, at least in R8 (Region 8). In R8, our top priority is renewable energy.”

The decision was made at a time when migratory bird programming within the USFWS across the country had been significantly reduced, and a prolonged drought in California had reduced breeding mallards in the state to all-time low numbers, as well as drastically reduced available wintering habitat for waterfowl and other birds. Delta Waterfowl contended it was the worst of times to shift focus.

The decision has also impacted states that work with the USFWS to manage and monitor ducks, geese and other migratory birds.

Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory game bird program coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and chair of the Pacific Flyway Study Committee, has also felt the pinch of the USFWS de-prioritization of traditional programs.

“We value the technical expertise we receive from USFWS representation at a flyway level,” he said. “Consequently, it is difficult to understand why Region 8 is not engaged. There are management concerns or issues for Aleutian Canada geese, tule white-fronted geese, sandhill cranes, white geese, brant and cinnamon teal in Region 8. As we conduct normal business and continue to update a number of management plans, we need to have representation from Region 8 at the table.”

Delta Waterfowl leaders have long been concerned that the USFWS migratory bird program across the country has suffered from a lack of resources. Yet, other regions continue to manage the whole suite of programming while also encountering heavy workload demands related to solar and wind development.

“We appreciate the difficulty the USFWS faces every day to meet its historical priorities while balancing them against new and emerging issues such as solar and wind development,” Rohwer said. “However, for USFWS leadership in Region 8 — which has the clear legal mandate and responsibility to manage migratory birds — to care only about renewable energy in the face of so many other challenges for ducks, geese and other migratory birds is simply wrong-minded. I think it shows a total disregard for duck hunters and others who have been the strongest and most committed constituents for the USFWS work.”

Delta Waterfowl is calling for Region 8 leadership to rebalance its priorities and resume its traditional migratory bird programming.

“At what point is someone going to be held accountable for ignoring a legal responsibility to manage all migratory birds, as well as a responsibility to waterfowlers?” Rohwer asked.

For more information, contact John Devney at (888) 987-3695 or

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group dedicated to ducks and duck hunters in North America.