The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits the possession of bald or golden eagles and their parts except as provided by permit. The exceptions under the statute for possession include:
Indian Religious Permits
Permits to Remove Depredating Eagles (eagles preying on livestock)
Resource Recovery (e.g., mining) Operators' Permits to Take Inactive Golden Eagle Nests
Renewal of Permits
The Code of Federal Regulations outlines both the procedures and the requirements for possession under these circumscribed uses. It also provides a question and answer section related to Indian religious use. Application for eagle permits must be directed to the regional United States Fish and Wildlife Office for the applicant. All wildlife permit procedures, application forms, and frequently asked questions can be found at http://permits.fws.gov. While the permits for each category are available in electronic format, there is not yet an electronic filing system available.
The following describes the pertinent requirements under 50 C.F.R. 22 et seq as well as a link to pdf. versions of the permit application materials for each type of eagle use.
Scientific or Exhibition Use of Eagle Parts
Under 50 C.F.R. 22.21, public scientific societies, public museums, or public zoological parks may apply to acquire both live eagles and eagle parts for use in study or exhibition. Institutions granted permits under this subsection may take, possess and transport within and out of the U.S. bald and golden eagles or their nests, eggs, and parts. There is no provision that allows for the transportation into or out of the U.S. of live bald or golden eagles or their live eggs.
When applying for this type of permit, one must submit the species and number of eagles proposed to be taken, the method of taking if applicable, the source of eagles to be acquired or transported or there is no direct taking, the name and address of the public institution, and a complete explanation and justification of the request. This includes the nature of the project or study, the number of the eagle specimens that are currently present at the institution, the reason why more are needed, and "other appropriate explanations." 50 C.F.R. 22.21(a)(3)(vi).
The application is then evaluated at the Migratory Bird Permit Office for the direct or indirect effect issue such a permit would have on the applicable wild eagle population, whether the facilities are adequate to accomplish the objectives stated, whether the justification for use is adequate to support removal of an eagle from its habitat, and whether the institution has demonstrated a bona fide scientific or exhibition purpose. 50 C.F.R. 22.21(c)(1-4). There is no mandated tenure for the permit; the expiration date is presumably individually determined.
(Please click here for a pdf. version of the Scientific and Exhibition Permit application (264KB)).
Indian Religious Use
In 1962, Congress saw a need to provide Native Americans with an avenue to obtain eagle parts for ceremonial religious use. Often viewed as a spiritual messenger by many Native Americans tribes, eagles play a central role in many religious ceremonies, including burial and marriage ceremonies. In fact, the eagle has been viewed by many as akin to the crucifix in Christian religions.
Under the BGEPA, Native Americans may obtain eagle parts for religious use. However, the federal regulations require that Native Americans must be members of federally recognized tribes pursuant to the Federally Recognized Tribes Act of 1994. (Click here for a pdf version of the List of Federally Recognized Tribes). Thus, members of small or antiquated tribes may not permitted to possess eagles parts for religious use. (For further discussion of formerly recognized tribes under the BGEPA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.) Likewise, non-Native Americans who sincerely practice Indian religions will also be denied eagle permits. (For further discussion of religious challenges to the BGEPA by non-Native Americans, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.)
Under 50 C.F.R. 22.22, only members of Indian tribes eligible to receive services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs may receive permits to use eagle parts for religious purposes. In 1999, the Regulations were changed to allow Indians to transport lawfully acquired eagles or their parts into or out of the U.S. for religious use. Previously, there was no provision for transportation across U.S. borders by Indians unlike the provision allowing for scientific transportation. Recognizing the hardship this placed on Native Americans seeking to use eagle parts in religious ceremonies outside U.S. borders, the regulations were amended.
When applying for a permit, Native Americans must submit the species and number of eagles or feathers to be taken, or acquired (even by gift or inheritance), the state or local area where the taking is proposed, the name of the tribe that the individual is associated, the name of the tribal religious ceremony for which the eagle parts are required, and a certification of enrollment in the tribe as recognized under 25 U.S.C. 479-1 that must be signed by a tribal official.
Upon obtaining the eagle parts, Native Americans must submit reports and inventories. Permits will be issued after consideration of the direct or indirect effects upon the eagle population at issue, whether the applicant is authorized to participate in a bona fide religious ceremony. The religious use permits are valid for one year from the date of issuance. However, a permit that allows Native Americans to transport eagle parts within the U.S. is valid for a lifetime. Permits issued for transportation into or out of the U.S. are valid for trips of 180 days or less and will expire in three years or on the date specified on the permit.
The permit process itself has created controversy by federally-recognized Native Americans. Fraught with delay and procedural hurdles, many Native Americans do not receive necessary eagle parts for years. Many ceremonies, like burial ceremonies, require eagle parts in a timely manner and, obviously, in an unpredictable fashion. As a result, Native Americans have challenged the permit process itself as a constitutional violation because it frustrates religious exercise. (For further discussion on religious challenges to the permit process by Native Americans, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.) This has prompted the proposal to allow Native Americans to collect eagle parts on reservation lands. However, this legislation, entitled Native Americans Free Exercise of Religion Act (NAFERA), would also allow for the limited taking of eagles on reservations, in contravention of 16 U.S.C. 668. (For further discussion on NAFERA, see Detailed Discussion of Eagle Act.)
Under 50 C.F.R. 22.23, permits may be granted to kill eagles that are causing serious injury to livestock or other wildlife. Applicants must describe the species and number of eagles, a description of the property where the damage is occurring, the inclusive dates for which the permit is requested, the method of taking, the kind and number of livestock or other domestic animals, the kind and amount of alleged damage, and other personal information for the applicant.
Bald or golden eagles may be taken (killed or removed) by firearms, traps, or "other suitable means" except by poison or from aircraft. 50 C.F.R. 22.23(b)(1). These eagles must then be promptly turned over to a Fish and Wildlife agent or other game law enforcement officer designated by the permit. Again, as with the other permits, the issuance of the permit is governed by the effect it will have on the population as well as a determination of whether there is evidence to support that eagles are causing the alleged damage. In addition, other means of abating the damage will be evaluated before depredating permits are issued. These permits are valid for the face of the permit, but no longer than 90 days.
Depredation orders may also be issued pursuant to a state governor's request. Under 50 C.F.R. 22.31, a governor of a state may request permission to take golden eagle to seasonally protect domesticated flocks and herds in a state. These requests must be submitted to the USFWS director stating the time in which the order is requested and a map of the area. If the request is granted, the state governor will be advised of the decision through a notice published in the Federal Register. Again, no taking by aircraft or poison is allowed and all the birds taken must be turned over to a local Bureau agent.
(Please click here for a pdf version of the application for an Eagle Depredating Permit (262 KB)).
Permits for Falconry Purposes
Permits to use golden eagles for falconry purposes will be issued under limited circumstances. Pursuant to 50 C.F.R. 22.24, applicants must submit proof of a master class permit, a statement of expertise in handling large raptors, at least two letters of reference detailing the applicant's experience with eagles, a description of the facilities in which the eagle(s) will be held, and other personal data necessary to process the application. Notably, the regulations provide that only golden eagles legally obtained may be possessed and used for falconry. Further, captive breeding of these raptors used in falconry is prohibited. The eagles issued or used for falconry are not transferable and the regulations specifically provide that more restrictive state laws for falconry shall be honored.
Permits are evaluated based on the applicant's cumulative falconry experience as well as his or her experience handling large raptors. The permits are valid as long as the applicant maintains his or her master permit in falconry. Interestingly, the regulations provide a mechanism to allow falconers to trap golden eagles that are in a specified depredation area for use in falconry.
(Please click here for a pdf. version of the application for a Permit for Falconry Purposes (266 KB)).
Permits to Take Inactive Golden Eagle Nests
In 1978, the BGEPA was amended to allow resource recovery operators (e.g., mining operators) to remove inactive golden eagle nests. In 1983, the federal register outlined the procedure under which inactive golden eagle nests may be removed in order to reduce the conflict between resource recovery operators and the federal government. This was then officially incorporated into the regulations concerning the eagle permit process.
Under the regulations, those entities involved in a resource development or resource recovery operations, including the planning and permitting stages, may apply to take inactive golden eagles nests. 50 C.F.R. 25. This is contingent upon the taking being compatible with the preservation of area nesting populations of golden eagles. Applicants must submit a description of the resource recovery operation(s), the number of proposed nests to be taken, a description of the property in which the taking is proposed (including a plat or exact geographic description outlining where each nest is located), a calculation of the nesting population based on the location of the nests, a description of the resource recovery activity to be performed that involves the taking of the nests, a statement from ornithologists experienced with eagles that can verify the applicant's calculations of the nesting population, the length of the time for which the permit is requested, a statement of the intended disposition of the nests (i.e., donation to scientific or educational institutions), and a statement of the mitigation measures to be taken to ensure golden eagle re-population in the area.
In evaluating the application, the total number is nests is considered as well as the habitat conditions for golden eagles in areas adjacent to the recovery operation. The proposed mitigation measures are evaluated to determine the reoccupation of the site by the nesting population. The permitees must then notify the USFWS at least ten days before each nest is taken. These permits area valid for no longer than two years.
(Please click here for a pdf. version of the application to take Golden Eagle Nests by resource recovery operations (265 KB)).
Renewal of Permits
Renewal of the various permits are provided electronically.
(Please click here for a pdf. version of the Renewal Application (232 KB)).