Virginia Migratory Bird Treaty Act Comment
May 16, 2020

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4VAC15-30-70

Dear Friends:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations and individuals, we wish to thank the Commonwealth of Virginia for its proposed protections for migratory birds. We strongly support the incidental take permitting proposals (4VAC15-30-70, 4VAC15-30-80, 4VAC15-30-90) and believe they are essential to conserve and maintain migratory bird populations.

We appreciate that the proposed rulemaking responds to harmful enforcement changes at the federal level (which we are challenging), and restores protections for migratory birds in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In addition, we applaud the Commonwealth’s strong environmental leadership in both creating incidental take permits and requiring the mitigation of habitat loss associated with development. Only by addressing both the threats to migratory birds and their habitats can we effectively bring back declining populations.

We strongly concur with the proposed definition of regulated activity (A 12) which includes known industrial sources of bird mortality such as power lines and towers, as well as consideration of general development impacts from Commercial projects, Industrial projects, and Transportation projects.

Industrial-scale wind and solar energy projects cause substantial bird mortality. These projects could either be added as sectors where a general permit is available or covered under the commercial and industrial projects.

We strongly support the proposal to minimize and mitigate impacts (E 2 b 4) and to consider habitat impacts (E 2 b 4 ii).

We particularly commend the Commonwealth for including a provision (E 2 b 4 iii) that recognizes the importance of wildlife habitat and the need to mitigate impacts to ensure continued ecosystem viability. We agree that equivalent off-site habitat replacement and restoration may be appropriate. To ease implementation, we recommend development of template mitigation plans and permit applications.

To fully apply the mitigation hierarchy, we recommend the Commonwealth engage in a planning effort to identify irreplaceable resources such as key habitat areas and important bird areas, where future development should be avoided. And in regard to existing projects, we urge the Commonwealth to take reasonable actions to mitigate migratory bird impacts.

We strongly support (F 2 e) the Modification of Permits provision that allows the Department to amend a permit during its term where circumstances have changed. This could be very important in case a project or general permit is found to be significantly exceeding its predicted take.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment, and for the Commonwealth’s outstanding leadership to establish a smart and effective approach to migratory bird conservation. Please let us know how we can be of further assistance as specific general permits and best management practices are being considered.

Sincerely,

American Bird Conservancy

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