PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL; April 12, 2017: Federal officials have missed their legal deadline for acting on a petition to remove the golden parakeet from Endangered Species Act coverage. Therefore, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is serving notice on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the agency will be sued if the foot-dragging continues.
The “60-day notice” that PLF just filed is the formal warning required before litigation can be launched against the FWS for violating the ESA. PLF represents, free of charge, the organization that submitted the delisting petition — the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA). A lawsuit against FWS will follow after the 60-day period has run, if the agency has not acted on the delisting petition by then.
“Regulators’ failure to act on the petition not only violates their legal duties and deadlines, it amounts to playing ostrich and ignores the encouraging, credible evidence of golden parakeet recovery,” said PLF attorney Christina Martin. “Even worse, the failure to free this bird from regulatory captivity is actually harmful to the species’ continued improvement. According to scholarship, one of the reasons why the golden parakeet is doing better is because private breeders are successfully breeding enough of the birds so that trapping is not a significant problem anymore. In other words, regulators are punishing the very people who are assisting in the preservation of the golden conure.”
The golden parakeet, also known as the golden conure, is not native to the U.S., but some members of the AFA own and breed them. The organization petitioned for the bird’s delisting because of credible data showing that the species has recovered — and because continued ESA listing actually impedes further improvement.
The AFA filed its delisting petition in August, 2014, relying partly on scientists’ published estimates that the bird’s population has increased from as few as 1,000 after its listing to as many as 20,000 birds today.
The FWS responded on April 10, 2015, with a finding that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that delisting may be warranted. That finding triggered a requirement to follow up within 12 months with a decision on whether or not to delist. However, fully 24 months have passed and a decision has yet to be announced.
Under current regulations, an owner must get an ESA “take” permit to sell the bird across state lines. This unnecessarily limits the genetic pool available for breeders, by making it more difficult and expensive to breed and sell golden parakeets to each other and to the public. The AFA’s petition asked for either outright delisting, or, in the alternative, downlisting to “threatened” and exempting U.S. owners of golden parakeets from the onerous, unjustified, and counterproductive ESA permit requirements.
“Federal regulations make it very difficult for breeders to maintain a genetically diverse flock of golden conures and to sell them to other breeders or members of the public,” said AFA member and golden parakeet breeder Nancy Speed. “Permits sometimes take more than one year just to allow the sale of one captive bred bird to another reputable breeder. These limits do not make any sense and have caused me to breed fewer of these beautiful birds.”
The AFA is a nonprofit national organization, established in 1974 to represent all aspects of aviculture and educate the public about keeping and breeding birds in captivity. It supports public and private programs that encourage conservation of birds in the wild as well as humane husbandry, care, and breeding of birds. It also represents the interests of more than 10,000 members, including bird breeders, pet bird owners, veterinarians, pet store owners, bird product manufacturers, and many others who are interested in the health and flourishing of bird species and aviculture.
AFA members own and maintain many hundreds of separate species of exotic birds, including golden conures. Many AFA members, like Nancy Speed, quoted above, are experts with long-term, hands-on experience with various species of birds.
“Aviculturists serve an important role in the preservation of birds,” said AFA President Jamie Whittaker. “In some cases breeders are the key to the long term survival of species at risk for extinction in their native lands. The federal government should stop hindering their important work.”
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.