6 months ago

PLF threatens lawsuit over feds’ failure to revise outdated golden parakeet regulations

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

Once again, federal officials have missed a legal deadline required by the Endangered Species Act. PLF just warned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that unless it acts within 60 days on the American Federation of Aviculture’s petition to delist the golden parakeet, we will sue to force action. The federal government’s failure to act violates the law and hurts people who are helping recover the golden parakeet.

In August 2014, the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), a nonprofit that educates the public and represents the interests of bird owners and breeders, filed the petition to delist the golden parakeet, also known as the golden conure. The federal government listed the South American bird as endangered in the 1970s. At one time, experts estimated its population at 1,000-2,500. Today, experts estimate 10,000-20,000 golden parakeets. On April 10, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that delisting might be warranted. That decision triggered a 12-month deadline, which has long passed. Frustrated by the federal agency’s stalling, the AFA asked PLF for help.

Besides violating the Endangered Species Act’s deadlines, the agency’s failure to act also hurts conservation efforts.One reason the golden parakeet is doing better is that breeders have supplied enough birds to decrease incentives for trappers to capture wild birds. Unfortunately, current regulations actually hurt breeders.

AFA member Nancy Speed with one of her golden conures

Under current regulations an owner must get a federal permit to sell the bird across state lines. The requirement makes it more difficult and expensive for breeders to maintain a genetically diverse flock of golden parakeets and to sell them to other breeders or the public. This red tape stifles bird breeders like AFA member Nancy Speed, causing them to breed fewer golden parakeets than they otherwise would.

Such restrictions are also counterproductive, because they increase the prices of these birds. The more expensive the bird, the greater the incentive for smugglers to capture them from their native habitat. But if breeders can successfully mate and sell more healthy golden parakeets, prices for these birds will drop more, further depressing any incentive to trap wild birds. This is one way that a healthy captive bird market preserves and protects populations in the wild. The federal government should recognize breeders’ important contribution and delist the bird, or at least exempt breeders from its counterproductive rules.

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American Federation of Aviculture v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thanks to the efforts of private breeders, the golden parakeet is no longer threatened with extinction. Although the federal government acknowledges the bird’s tenfold increase in numbers, it has refused to comply with a law that requires it to make a final decision to delist or downlist the parakeet within 12 months of that finding. On behalf of a coalition of breeders and bird owners, the American Federation of Aviculture, PLF is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force it to comply with the law, reclassify the golden parakeet, and lift onerous restrictions that prevent breeders from selling to all other breeders.

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