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2014 has been a challenging year. On December 20, 2013, Rose Braz—Wild Equity’s Chairperson, my wife, and the person I call “the greatest human I’ve ever met” without reservation—had a seizure. That Christmas Eve she was diagnosed with an invasive and aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

It was the scariest moment we’ve ever faced.


Too many days were spent like this in 2014.

Our lives have been transformed. Rose has since had two brain surgeries and endured radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Much of my time has been dedicated to Rose’s care, and searching the literature for treatments that may fight this disease.

This time last year we knew next to nothing about brain cancer. Since then we’ve learned that many researchers now believe there will not be a “silver bullet” cure for glioblastoma. It is much more likely that a cure will be forged from several different treatments, each fighting a different aspect of the disease.

We transformed what we learned into a treatment “cocktail” that seems to be working. Rose’s latest scans are clear, and she’s still fighting fracking throughout California.


Rose rallying thousands just days after treatment.

What is most striking about this seemingly insurmountable challenge is that our struggles and insights parallel Wild Equity’s theory of change.

Wild Equity believes that no one strategy or technique will solve our systemic problems, so we wield a variety of tools—education, public relations, litigation, & grassroots organizing and lobbying—to win campaigns and create a sustainable and just world.

More so than any other Bay Area organization, Wild Equity has the suite of skills needed to wield each of these tools successfully, and we’ve demonstrated our effectiveness in wielding them time and again.

Now more than ever we need you to reinvest in our work: please renew your membership and/or make a tax-deductible contribution to the Wild Equity Institute today.

Even during this exacting year, your support has helped Wild Equity make great strides towards a more just and sustainable community for all:

  • You helped us bring another lawsuit against the endangered species-killing Sharp Park Golf Course. With Save the Frogs! & Sequoia Audubon, Wild Equity is challenging Sharp Park Golf Course’s new attempt to drain critical wetlands for endangered species. With each successful claim we not only help wildlife, we increase the odds that San Francisco will stop wasting funds on this wildlife-killing golf course, and redirect them to San Francisco’s most impoverished neighborhood parks.


Photo © Liam O’Brien

These victories are exceptional; with your support we can accomplish even more in 2015:

Imagine the world we will build together: a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Thank you for supporting this vision and contributing to our work today!

With deepest gratitude,

Brent Plater, Executive Director

Rose Braz, Chairperson

PS — Don’t forget to buy an “I ‘Bird’ SF” shirt for you and everyone you love! All sizes are currently in stock. Thank you!

Tonight’s the night: Wild Equity’s five year anniversary celebration!  A limited number of tickets have been reserved for sale at the door for only $15, so come on by! 

Thursday November 6th, 6pm,

at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics 

Thank you from all of us at Wild Equity!



Wild Equity Party

These are not actors: it’s an actual scene from Wild Equity’s most recent bash!!

Buy Your Ticket Now!



 

On November 6th, 6pm, at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics Wild Equity will be proudly celebrating our five year anniversary! That’s right, it’s already been Five Years Fighting, and we’ve decided to throw you, the people who’ve made Wild Equity possible, a party!

Please join us for food, drinks, games, goodies, and most importantly good company! We’ll have live music by singer/songwriter Kristin Plater, as well as an outdoor gear raffle and vintage endangered species artwork up for auction at this celebratory end-of-year fundraiser. We’ll also showcase what we’ve accomplished to date, and, of course, show how we intend to keep Wild Equity’s momentum growing!

Tickets are on sale now for only $15! Space is limited, so reserve yours today!
(No one turned away for lack of funds.)

We can’t wait to see you!

Pale Male Petition to Obama: Stop Nest Destruction Now

On July 24, 2012, the Wild Equity Institute filed a formal administrative petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) urging it to change its migratory bird nest policy. The policy encourages destruction of migratory bird nests, which is prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA). The Service’s policy has led to the destruction of countless bird nests since it was enacted, including one of a famous New York red-tailed hawk.

Pale Male is a red-tailed hawk who has nested near Central Park in New York City since 1991. He has many fans throughout the world. During the 2004 holiday season, Pale Male’s nest, built on the side of a residential Fifth Avenue building, was deliberately destroyed. The nest was approximately 400-pounds and was built over several years. Almost immediately, this act of destruction was met with popular uproar among his fans. Newspapers ran stories as far away as Saudi Arabia and India, and over ten articles appeared in the New York Times. Protests and vigils were held outside the apartment building while Pale Male and his mate, Lola, fruitlessly attempted to rebuild their nest. The pairs’ efforts failed because the structure that had previously supported the nest had been deliberately removed to prevent the birds from nesting again. After 21 days of public pressure, the building co-op board relented and reinstalled a supporting structure for Pale Male and Lola. The red-tailed hawks immediately began to rebuild their nest.

Unfortunately, although the pair mated in the spring of 2005 and Lola laid a clutch of eggs, the eggs failed to hatch—likely because of the stress inflicted by their eviction or because the nest was too thin, causing the eggs to be damaged by its supporting structure. Over the next seven years, Pale Male and Lola continued to produce eggs that would not hatch. Although Pale Male finally was able to produce offspring with a new mate in 2011, during those years when his eggs failed to hatch Pale Male did not recruit new members into the local population, and his birdwatching fans did not have a new set of nestlings to celebrate.

This tragic story could easily have been avoided if the Service had correctly carried out its duties under the MTBA. The MBTA expressly prohibits the destruction of migratory birds and their nests unless the Service issues a permit to do so. Although the Fifth Avenue building co-op board applied for a permit to remove Pale Male’s nest, it was told by the Service that no permit was necessary because the nest was “unoccupied,” which is defined as “without birds or eggs.” The Service made this determination even though Pale Male and Lola were residing in the nest year-round.

This odd result is the product of a Service policy that encourages destruction of nests even if a property owner is willing to move a nest rather than destroy it. Under this policy, anyone may destroy a nest so long as no egg or fledgling is within it at the moment of destruction, regardless of whether an adult bird is using the nest for shelter, roosting, or returns to the same nest every spring.

The Service continues to follow this policy today and, consequently, countless functioning bird nests have been destroyed without oversight from expert biologists and without legal consequence. The Service must change this policy in order to adequately protect birds as the MBTA requires. The changes suggested in WEI’s petition to the Service would address the policy’s illogical approach to dealing with migratory bird nests.

Wild Equity staff participated in a very special event on Saturday, June 7: the release of five juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons, four of which were injured in the Oakland tree trimming incident last month. The event was hosted by our partner Golden Gate Audubon Society as well as International Bird Rescue, the organization that has been caring for the birds since the incident.

Bird lovers, conservationists, and members of the press gathered to watch young members of GGAS’ education program release the birds into a habitat area at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline park in Oakland.


Members of GGAS’ youth education program prepare to release the birds.
Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.


Two Herons check out their new surroundings. Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.

GGAS’ new Executive Director also took the opportunity to spread the word about their new brochure offering advice to both professional tree trimmers and backyard gardeners about taking care to avoid situations like the one in Oakland.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, apparently kowtowing to political pressure from an anti-environmental congressman, dropped charges against the tree trimmer hired by the U.S. Postal Service, and has not prosecuted the Postal Service at all. Although the Migratory Bird Treaty Act clearly prohibits harming or disturbing migratory birds and their nests, the Fish and Wildlife Service often uses its discretion in making enforcement decisions. However, Wild Equity requested information from the Postal Service under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the incident, which will help shed light on the agency’s involvement. In light of the clear MBTA violations, Wild Equity will be seeking full prosecution for those responsible.

In 2012, Wild Equity petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service over its disastrous nest destruction policy. The policy allows and even encourages the destruction of inactive nests (nests without birds or eggs). The result of the policy is inconsistent enforcement between inactive and active nests and broad latitude for those with no biological background or understanding of birds to decide whether a nest should be destroyed. Wild Equity urged the Service to establish a consistent policy that clearly requires a trained biologist to assess an area and a permit to be issued before nests are destroyed, whether active or inactive. The inconsistency in policy and enforcement has led to countless incidents of bird nest destruction and bird disturbances.

Learn more about the petition here, and come see Wild Equity Staff Attorney Laura Horton give a talk on Wild Equity’s migratory bird work on Sunday July 20 at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 9 am. Event details are here.


One of the released Herons. Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.

Three Herons still not quite sure what to do. Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.

Staff members ran into Wild Equity supporters Tom and Diane! Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.

Staff Attorney Laura Horton will give a talk on Wild Equity Institute’s migratory bird work on Sunday, July 20, 2014 as part of the Unitarian Universalist Forum series. Laura will discuss the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s nest destruction policy, which has led to the destruction of countless migratory bird nests since it was enacted in 2003. This issue was recently spotlighted after an appalling encounter between the U.S. Postal Service and baby black-crowned night herons in Oakland.

The horrific scene in Oakland, where tree trimmers hired by the Postal Service fed branches full of heron nests and chicks into a wood chipper, sheds light on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s disastrous policy. Witnesses say baby birds were falling out of the trees and that there were significant injuries of the birds and disturbance of their nests. The Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that it is investigating the incident.


Baby Black-crowned Night Herons being cared for at International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield.
Photo: Isabel Luevano, International Bird Rescue

Killing and injuring migratory birds and destroying their nests is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”). However, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s nest policy incorrectly interprets the statutory language of the MTBA by unlawfully distinguishing “active” from “inactive” nests. The policy allows and even encourages the destruction of inactive nests (nests without birds or eggs), even if the nest is being used as shelter or a bird returns to the nest each year. The result of the policy is inconsistent enforcement between inactive and active nests and broad latitude for those with no biological background or understanding of birds to decide whether a nest should be destroyed.


This Great Horned Owl in an empty Osprey nest shows that a seemingly unused nest
may still be used as shelter by other birds. Photo: J.D. Phillips.


In July 2012, Wild Equity asked the Service to establish a consistent policy that clearly requires a trained biologist to assess an area and a permit to be issued before nests are destroyed, whether active or inactive. Wild Equity filed a formal administrative petition with the Service urging it to change its policy. In December 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent Wild Equity a letter rejecting the petition, citing limited resources and policy disagreements as the reasoning. However, the Service did say it was “reviewing options for enhancing protection for nests of cavity-nesting species, such as the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia),” and that Wild Equity’s regulatory suggestions were “helpful in this regard, and [the Service plans] to give them further consideration.”

Wild Equity is currently reviewing the Service’s response to the petition, as well as the investigation into the Oakland incident, and will be taking further steps to avoid this kind of situation in the future; stay tuned for future updates and opportunities to get involved.

Laura’s talk will take place on Sunday, July 20 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street at Geary, Martin Luther King Room at 9:30 AM. Check the Wild Equity calendar or contact lhorton@wildequity.org for more details.

Wild Equity staff members Laura Horton and Amy Zehring recently attended the 32nd Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon Law School in Eugene. The conference is a premier gathering for environmental lawyers and activists worldwide, and is distinguished as the oldest and largest of its kind. Laura organized and led a panel discussion on Wild Equity’s work protecting migratory bird nests and shared information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s harmful nest destruction policy. The panel was titled The Government’s Empty Nest Syndrome: Towards a Rational and Valid MBTA Nest Policy and included animal law attorney Danny Lutz and ornithologist Dan Gleason. In addition, Laura and Amy connected with other advocates throughout the weekend and attended panels on important topics such as endangered species protection and environmental justice.


Laura, Danny, and Dan

“What do you get out of it? Why do you keep trying?”

The reporter’s questions caught me off-guard. I had been expecting to discuss Wild Equity’s role protecting the Franciscan Manzanita—a gorgeous plant presumed extinct in the wild for decades, but now on the verge of reintroduction throughout the City. I hadn’t anticipated the need to defend my life’s purpose.

As my mind considered the questions, I realized that only my heart could answer them. “I get a chance to make the world more equitable, more beautiful,” I replied. “I know the odds are long, but thousands of people have trusted in our ability to make this vision reality. When I’m toiling away late at night, pouring over thousands of pages of government documents or pounding away at another legal brief, I reflect on how grateful I am for their support, and it makes all the sacrifices worthwhile.”

When the SF Weekly article finally came out, it emphasized Wild Equity’s work protecting this miracle plant, and noted that we’ve won “a number of other high-profile lawsuits in the name of conservation, including this summer’s triumph over Sharp Park Golf Course for killing endangered red-legged frogs and garter snakes.”

But it failed to note that these conservation victories aren’t ours alone. Your contributions—your commitment to our vision, your trust in our staff, your donations to our programs—make each victory possible.

Now we are asking you to reinvest in our work: please make a tax-deductible contribution to the Wild Equity Institute today.

As the SF Weekly recognized, we’ve had a remarkable year making a difference against incredible odds:

These victories are remarkable: with your support we can accomplish even more in 2014:

  • Your contribution will create a better public park at Sharp Park, funding advocates who will fight for what you believe in at City Hall and in neighborhoods around the Bay Area.
  • Your contribution can halt other power plants that are polluting our communities and poisoning the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, retaining experts that will tell the butterfly’s story, before it is too late.
  • Your Contribution will help us run our successful education project, the Endangered Species Big Year, and support our two new Big Year staff: Clay Anderson and Marcela Maldonado, as they build new park advocates people throughout the Bay Area.

Imagine the world we will build together: a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Thank you for supporting this vision and contributing to our work today!

Thank you from all of us at the Wild Equity Institute,

Brent Plater, Executive Director

with, from left to right:

Amy Zehring, Community Organizer

Marcela Maldonado, Project Coordinator

Clay Anderson, Project Coordinator

Laura Horton, Staff Attorney



P.S.—Consider becoming a monthly donor. For as little as $5 a month, you’ll help us spend less time raising funds and more time wining campaigns for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth! You can do this online at the Wild Equity Institute’s website. Thank you!

The Wild Equity Institute is pleased to announce the publication of Problems for Pale Male: An Analysis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Nest Destruction Policy in the Summer 2013 issue of the Pace Environmental Law Review. The article, authored by Wild Equity’s Executive Director Brent Plater, Staff Attorney Laura Horton, and previous Equity Intern Nicole Lopez-Hagan, provides a legal analysis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s nest destruction policy. It discusses how a lack of proper permitting and government oversight has led to the destruction of countless bird nests, causing devastating impacts on birds across the country in violation of federal law. At the conclusion of the article, the authors urge the Service to comply with federal law by establishing a permitting framework whereby individuals must be issued a permit to destroy any bird nest before the destruction occurs.

The final published article is a product of collaborative research, writing, and editing over the last two years among the Wild Equity team. In addition, the Editorial Staff of the Pace Environmental Law Review provided excellent technical support, producing a high quality piece. We hope this article will help guide our society towards securing more protections for migratory birds in the future. You can read the article by clicking here.

In July of 2012, the Wild Equity Institute filed a formal administrative petition with the Obama Administration requesting that it repeal a Bush Administration interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”), and provide full protection to migratory bird nests under law.


Pale Male in Central Park, New York, NY, awaiting protection for his nest. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Karim.

To date the Administration has not responded to our petition. But recent news stories suggest we can’t wait much longer for the Administration to take action.

For example, In Petaluma CalTrans recently erected exclusion netting on a construction site to prevent Cliff Swallows from nesting under a highway the agency wishes to expand. But the Cliff Swallows continue to attempt nesting there, and more than 60 swallows have been reported killed as they attempt to nest and get caught in the nets.

In early April the . Osprey first nested at Pier 80 one year ago, and at the time the birds were celebrated as the first Ospreys ever known to nest within San Francisco’s city limits. But this year Larry Elison’s America’s Cup yacht was being assembled at the Pier, and the Port wasted little time destroying the nest.

And in the rest of the City reports are coming in that the Department of Public Works and the Recreation and Parks Department are cutting down numerous trees right now without first conducting nesting bird surveys. A simple survey could help the Departments know which trees they can remove immediately, and which they should leave standing through the conclusion of the breeding bird season.

The Wild Equity Institute believes that all of these actions are illegal absent Migratory Bird Treaty Act permits. The MBTA makes it illegal to kill migratory birds or destroy their nests—whether the nests seem active at the time or not—unless a permit is obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first. The Osprey and Cliff Swallows have clearly been harmed by one or both of these illegal activities, and the Fish and Wildlife Service should initiate enforcement activities because of it.

But instead the Service is hamstrung, because the Bush Administration interpretation of the MBTA requires the agency to determine if the nests were active or not at the moment of destruction—a completely irrelevant consideration under the original interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If the Obama Administration were to repeal the Bush Administration interpretation and revert back to the original interpretation of the statute—which protected all nests regardless of whether there was a bird sitting in the nest at the time of destruction—more birds would obtain the protection they deserve and the Service saves resources by simplifying and streamlining its enforcement activities.

The Wild Equity Institute will be following up with these matters, and with the Obama Administration, in the coming months. To add your voice to our work, contact us today and we’ll help you help our Nation’s birds.

Wild Equity Institute is receiving its first branded products soon, and the buzz is building. For example, a focus group participant at San Francisco State University had this to say about our new “I Bird San Francisco” T-shirt:

“This shirt has value far more important than its price. How much is it worth to promote environmental protection in your community? How much is it worth to use organic clothes? The shirt is worth our entire future as a civilization.”


I Bird SF 100% organic cotton T-shirt. Comes in natural color, sizes S, M, L, & XL.

That’s right folks: our I Bird SF shirt is worth our entire future as a civilization!

Lucky for you we’re giving them away—to members who contribute $60 or more to our end of year membership drive! Either join Wild Equity or renew your membership at the $60 level or more and you’ll get an I Bird SF T-shirt on the house!

Already have plenty of shirts? No problem! You can substitute a Wild Equity branded reusable water bottle made in the USA from 100% recycled aluminum!


The Wild Equity bottle is made of 100% recycled aluminum in the USA.
24oz with twist-off cap. Select green or white.

Want the bottle and the shirt? We’ve got a solution for you too: if you contribute at the $100 level or more, we’ll send you one T-shirt and one water bottle at no extra charge!

Ladies and gentlemen, there hasn’t been a Wild Equity membership deal this good since….well ever! Not only do you get some cool sustainable products, you also get to contribute to our work saving San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program so it can continue stewarding our local plants and wildlife; transforming Sharp Park Golf Course into a new national park everyone can enjoy; and saving the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly and empowering local communities to end pollution from power plants that destroy the species’ habitat.

So join now and let the world see that you’re part of our movement. Of course, you can always decline the stuff and let all of your contribution go directly to our work: just let us know what you prefer in the notes section of your order! Be sure to specify color for the bottle, and size for the shirt! And thank you for believing in our work!

Sincerely,

Brent Plater
Executive Director

ps—If you already gave this year and earned a shirt and/or a bottle, we’ve got you covered! We’ll contact you when they are ready to ship and take your order. Or contact us anytime and let us know what you want! We expect first shipments to go out in late January.

I’m starting this note with two short stories that inspired our work this year. After reading them, I believe you’ll be inspired to become a Wild Equity Institute member, so we can continue our extraordinary work.

Recently I returned from a weekend workshop where I discussed the future of the conservation movement with giants in our field—people like Dr. Michael Soulé, the founder of the field of conservation biology; Dr. Holmes Ralston III, a luminary in the field of environmental ethics; and Terry Tempest Williams, one of our great contemporary environmental writers.

It was an honor to simply be in a room with these incredible people. But as the meeting progressed, I was humbled to see that they found inspiration in the Wild Equity Institute’s work, and are incorporating our theory of change into a new era of environmental protection and conservation.

Around the same time I received this note from a student who participated in Wild Equity’s Endangered Species Big Semester, our environmental education project that helps disadvantaged students see and save our local endangered species:

“I got a lot from your program, like great memories and the chance to meet amazing people. I’m so thankful Wild Equity made it possible to help me learn, not only was it educational, but also it was fun and exciting. I absolutely loved all the field trips and would enjoy doing it again.”

We are proud that in just three short years we’ve improved lives and inspired leaders to build a stronger environmental movement for all.

But we can’t do it alone: and that’s why we’re asking you to become a Wild Equity Institute member today.

The Wild Equity Institute believes we can achieve extraordinary environmental victories while building a larger, more resilient environmental movement. We do this by uniting grassroots conservation and environmental justice groups in campaigns that build a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

At a minimum, this means our work must focus on preventing other species from going extinct, and ensuring that no community is burdened with a disproportionate share of environmentally harmful activities.

In 2012, we implemented this theory of change in several ways:

But we aren’t done yet. In 2013, we will work to save San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program so it can continue stewarding our local plants and wildlife; transform Sharp Park Golf Course into a new national park everyone can enjoy; and save the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly and empower local communities to end pollution from power plants that destroy the species’ habitat.

In each of these efforts, we build capacity for our movement by engaging new allies and building the power we need to tackle our most pressing environmental problems.

That’s why when you contribute to our work you get a twofer: we achieve measurable environmental gains on the ground, but more importantly, we ensure that our movement grows so that the scale of our efforts can match the size of the threats we face.

But movements are not defined by the effectiveness of organizations. They are defined by the inspiration, the passion, the commitment of the people these organizations serve. This is why we need you to demonstrate your commitment by becoming a Wild Equity member today.

Imagine the world we will build together: a more equitable world for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. Thank you for supporting this vision and for joining us today!

Sincerely,

Brent Plater
Executive Director

P.S.— Consider becoming a monthly donor. For as little as $5 a month, you’ll help us spend less time raising funds and more time wining campaigns for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth! You can do this online at the Wild Equity Institute’s website. Thank you!

So far, 2012 has been extremely productive for the Wild Equity Institute. But we need you to become a Wild Equity Institute member for us to advance our mission. Take a look at what we’ve already accomplished:

And this is just the beginning of what we can accomplish. We’ve got more ideas to build a sustainable and just world than we can implement by the end of the year!

But if you join the Wild Equity Institute today you can help us expand our work, engage new allies, and build a healthy and sustainable community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth. By joining us today you will help us close out 2012 with a bang:

  • We will expand our challenge to power plants in Antioch while protecting the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.
  • We will pass new legislation to protect San Francisco’s natural areas while creating a new National Park at Sharp Park.
  • We will ensure that the Franciscan Manzanita obtains the critical habitat and endangered species protections it deserves.
  • We will host endangered species bike rides, movie nights, and more to build a stronger community for conservation and justice right here in San Francisco.

We can’t do any of this without your support: please join us now and watch our campaigns thrive! Become a member of the Wild Equity Institute today. If you are already a member, consider becoming a monthly donor or making a special contribution to our work.

Thank you for all you do to help us engage and win!

July 24, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Pale Male Petition to Obama: Stop Nest Destruction Now

Petition Demands President Obama Bring an End to
Bush Administration’s Destroy-first Policy

San Francisco — The Wild Equity Institute filed a formal administrative petition with the Obama Administration today, asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) to protect migratory bird nests from destruction unless and until prior written authorization from the Service is obtained.

Dubbed the “Pale Male Petition,” the requested rule change was inspired by the infamous destruction of Pale Male’s nest on 5th Avenue in New York City in 2004—which the Bush Administration deemed lawful under a peculiar interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. After Pale Male’s nest was destroyed he did not produce offspring again until 2011.

“It’s been eight years since Pale Male’s nest was illegally destroyed, and the Obama Administration still has not restored full protections to migratory birds,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “The Pale Male Petition will close a loophole that continues to threaten migratory birds and their young.”

The proposed regulations would reverse a nearly decade-old, convoluted Bush Administration policy that allows any person to destroy a bird nest if the nest is deemed “unoccupied” at the time of destruction: so long as the person avoids “possessing” the nest in the process of destroying it. Although the Bush Administration policy seems difficult to reconcile with the laws of physics, it provided the legal underpinning for the destruction of Pale Male’s nest in 2004.


Pale Male and his mate Lola in 2003. Photo by Lincoln Karim.

Pale Male, arguably the world’s most well-known Red-tailed Hawk, had a global following after he successfully nested on a storied building near Central Park’s Toy Boat Pond. But the building’s celebrity occupants—including former CNN news anchor Paula Zahn—grew tired of the concomitant commotion. The building’s management responded by applying for a depredation permit for Pale Male’s nest in December of 2003, claiming that the nest was “inactive.” The Service responded by citing a new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which, for the first time in the MBTA’s history, treats “active” and so-called “inactive” nests differently. It then denied the permit application stating “[w]e do not issue permits for the take of inactive nests . . . . An inactive nest is a nest without birds or eggs.”

Armed with this new legal interpretation, the building managers waited for Pale Male, his mate Lola, and their young chicks to leave the nest, and then tore the nest and all support structures down while the birds were away. No violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act were ever prosecuted by the Service.

The Service’s new policy thus encourages destruction of bird nests without permits. Under the policy, anyone may destroy a nest so long as no egg or fledgling is within it at the moment of destruction, regardless of whether an adult bird is using the nest for shelter, for roosting, or if the bird returns to the same nest every spring. As demonstrated in the Pale Male Petition, this policy violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MTBA”) and its implementing regulations, which expressly prohibits the destruction of migratory birds and their nests—whether they are active or inactive—unless a permit is first obtained from the Service.

Yet the Service continues to follow the Bush Administration policy today, and consequently countless functioning bird nests have been destroyed without oversight from expert biologists and without legal consequence. The Service must change this policy in order to adequately protect migratory birds, as the MBTA requires.

“The Pale Male Petition requests common-sense regulations that will protect thousands of birds,” said Plater. “We owe it to future generations to make sure expert biologists determine which nests can be destroyed, rather than supers and TV anchors.”

Background

On April 15, 2003, during the Bush Administration, the Service issued the Migratory Bird Permit Memorandum, which introduced a new policy position on the destruction of migratory bird nests. In this memorandum, the Service argues that when an “inactive” bird nest—one without birds or eggs—is destroyed, there is no violation of law and no permit to destroy the nest is required so long as the nest is destroyed without “possession”. The memorandum justified this assessment by suggesting that only “possession” of nests is prohibited under the MBTA, and that “destruction” does not entail “possession.”

The Pale Male Petition shows concretely how this logic is flawed:

  • Under the law, an act of destruction inherently includes within it the act of possession. It is therefore not possible to destroy a nest without possessing the nest if only for an instant.
  • The policy ignores basic bird biology by assuming that a nest without eggs serves no biological function. In fact, birds use nests outside of the breeding season, and even abandoned bird nests are often reused by other birds.
  • The policy is simply irreconcilable with the Service’s mandate to protect migratory birds from wanton nest destruction.

 The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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