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GLIN==> Amendments to Migratory Bird Treaty Boost Conservation, N...

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From:     NEWS@fws.gov AT FWS
Date:     10/12/99 08:44 AM
To:       fws-news@www.fws.gov AT FWS
Subject:  Amendments to Migratory Bird Treaty Boost Conservation, N...

October 7, 1999                    Chris Tollefson   202-208-5634


United States officials formally reached an agreement Thursday with the
Canadian government that will improve the management
birds that migrate between the United States and Canada and permit
regulated spring subsistence hunting for the indigenous peoples of Canada
and Alaska. The agreement formally implements
protocol amending the 1916 Migratory Bird Convention, an important
bilateral treaty for the conservation of migratory birds.

Peter Romero, Acting United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western
Hemisphere Affairs, and Canada's Deputy Minister
Foreign Affairs and International Trade, George Haynal,
instruments of ratification during President Clinton's visit to Canada. The
amendments to the Migratory Bird Convention, which were approved by the
U.S. Senate in 1997 and the Canadian government in 1995, will allow the
United States and Canada to recognize and cooperatively manage subsistence
hunts with native peoples. Many indigenous peoples in the far North depend
on traditional subsistence hunting for their survival, and such hunting is
guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution and
by established U.S. policy.

"The implementation of these amendments is an important step forward in our
relationships with native and indigenous
and in the conservation of these priceless resources. While protecting a
centuries-old way of life, they also give native peoples their rightful
voice in the management process and recognize their crucial role as
stewards of countless migratory bird populations," said Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt.

"This, the latest step in a long process, takes us closer to making the
Migratory Birds Convention reflect and respect existing aboriginal and
treaty rights while ensuring the conservation of migratory birds. We will
be better able to continue the meaningful partnerships which we have
aboriginal peoples and will be better able to work with them in


continued migratory bird conservation," said Canadian
Minister David Anderson.

The Migratory Bird Convention with Canada, signed in 1916, is North
America's oldest international wildlife conservation pact.
The United States and Mexico signed a similar treaty in 1936.
treaties provide protection for all species of migratory birds
North America, while permitting regulated hunting seasons for game birds.

By barring all migratory bird hunting between March 10 and September 1, the
original treaties did not adequately take into account traditional harvests
of migratory birds by northern indigenous peoples during the spring and
summer months. These harvests have gone on for centuries and continued
despite the treaty prohibitions. In many cases, the birds are a vital food
source for northern indigenous peoples of Canada and Alaska.

"The Service has long recognized the need to include
hunting in our migratory bird planning process, and to give indigenous
communities a voice in protecting the resources on which they depend," said
Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark.
"These amendments reflect years of negotiations, and are a testimony to the
commitment of both nations to migratory bird

Were the convention not amended, the treaty would probably have to be
abrogated because the Canadian Constitution guarantees a legal harvest for
Canadian aboriginal peoples. The Senate also approved corresponding
amendments to the treaty with Mexico in 1997 that allow subsistence harvest
of ducks and their eggs by indigenous peoples in Alaska.

Because no new harvests are being established, biologists
the amendments to have little or no impact on either the number of birds
flying south or the abundance of game species. In fact, the amendments
should improve management of these birds
creating a partnership with indigenous peoples, who are
of some of the most important habitat in the world.

The amendments to the migratory bird treaties also:

          Increase information exchanges and data collection
among the
     three countries and Aboriginal and indigenous peoples, expanding the
     scientific base for migratory bird management.

          Update certain parts of the treaties including the
     list and outdated protection measures;


          Provide a forum whereby the countries can work
     to resolve migratory bird problems in a manner consistent with the
     principles underlying the treaties and, if necessary, design special
     actions or policies to conserve and protect species of concern.

While the amendments provide for a legal spring and summer harvest for some
far northern peoples, the Canadian and
governments are required to ensure this migratory bird harvest
conducted in accordance with conservation principles. The
States will establish specific harvest regulations for spring
summer seasons in cooperation with local and state cooperative management

The United States will continue to develop the necessary regulatory
processes to ensure the amendments are properly implemented. The U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service will rely on authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act of 1918 to establish subsistence harvest seasons in Alaska.  The public
have ample opportunity to comment on regulations.  The Service
currently considering various methods of establishing
management bodies comprising indigenous inhabitants of Alaska
state and Service officials to recommend annual regulations for the hunts.

As indicated in a Federal Register Notice published on August
the Service expects to have the management bodies in place by next year,
and specific hunting regulations implemented by 2001.
Until that time, the Service will rely on existing policy, established in
1988 and updated in 1999, allowing subsistence harvest compatible with
sustainable conservation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing
and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of
American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre
Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife
refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other
management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and
wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The
agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species
Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and
helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees
the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in
excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife


                            Fact Sheet
                Protocol to the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty

Background: The United States and Canada signed a protocol to
1916 Migratory Bird Treaty in December, 1995. The U.S. Senate
its advice and consent to the protocol on October 23, 1997.

The protocol amends the 1916 Convention to provide for a traditional spring
and summer hunt of migratory birds protected under the convention by
Aboriginal peoples of Canada and
peoples of Alaska. The protocol is designed to improve the conservation of
migratory birds by allowing for the effective regulation of this hunt. For
the United States, it provides for
consultative management process on hunting regulations which involves the
indigenous communities in Alaska. For Canada, it brings the Migratory Bird
Treaty into conformance with its constitution and with the aboriginal and
treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

Questions and Answers about the protocol

Why are changes to the Migratory Bird Treaty needed?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which charges the Service with setting and
enforcing regulations for all covered migratory
species, requires that the regulations must be consistent with
provisions of the 1916 Canada Treaty, which prohibits hunting between March
10 and September 1.This prohibition does not recognize the fact that
indigenous and aboriginal peoples in
and northern Canada traditionally depend on migratory bird
when the birds arrive in the spring. In 1986, the Service began
rulemaking process to permit and regulate subsistence hunting
migratory birds in Alaska. The rulemaking was halted by an
9, 1987, ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that
any regulations for subsistence hunting of
birds must be in accordance with the 1916 treaty signed with
and implemented by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Following the court
decision, the Service worked toward legalizing
harvest in Alaska during the closed season by proposing
to the Canada Treaty and the Mexico Treaty. After extensive negotiations
with both Canada and Mexico, protocols were signed with both nations in

Why has it taken so long to implement the protocol?

The protocol amended a treaty that had been in effect for eight decades,
and questions about the potential need for
legislation and/or regulations delayed the President's
until September 9, 1999.

How has the Service treated subsistence hunting in the past?

Except in Alaska, the Service has always strictly enforced the prohibitions
against taking migratory birds during closed
that is, during those times of year outside the hunting seasons established
in the annual hunting regulations. The Service has recognized for many
years that residents of certain rural areas
Alaska depend on waterfowl and some other migratory birds as customary and
traditional sources of food, primarily during
and early summer.  Because of this long established dependence,
Service generally has exercised its discretion to not strictly enforce the
closed season in these areas provided that
harvest of a particular species will not adversely affect its populations
and that birds are not wasted. The Service
the need for conservation measures to protect those species
population levels are of concern or are most susceptible to declines, and
the protocols put in place a process to address

How will the protocol affect sport hunting in the lower 48
and southern Canada?

There should be no significant change in hunting opportunities. Amendment
of the Convention would simply legalize and provide
the management and monitoring of an existing spring/summer harvest.
It will not initiate a new harvest.

What is the status of the protocol negotiated with Mexico?

In 1936, the United States and Mexico signed the U.S.-Mexico Convention for
the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game
similar to the 1916 treaty with Canada. The Mexico Treaty established a
closed season for ducks from March 10 to September 1.
A protocol was negotiated with Mexico that received the advice
consent of the U.S. Senate in October of 1997. The protocol
the harvest of wild ducks and their eggs by the indigenous
of Alaska during otherwise closed seasons, provided that the harvest is for
personal use only and does not jeopardize the populations of any species.
The United States and Mexico hope
exchange instruments of ratification for the protocol in the

When will the treaty amendments take effect?

The amendments will take effect as soon as the instruments of ratification
have been exchanged by representatives of the two countries on October 7.
Embedded in the Protocol under Article
is the provision which states that "This Protocol shall enter
force on the date the Parties exchange instruments of ratification." The
protocol allows regulations to be written opening the season on subsistence
harvest of migratory birds between March 10 and September 1. The process to
develop regulations is currently in progress and is expected to result
the establishment of management bodies in 2000 and specific
regulations in 2001.

How will indigenous and native peoples be involved in
subsistence harvest regulations?

The Protocol mandates that subsistence users will have an
and meaningful role in the development and implementation of subsistence
regulations through management bodies. The Service
currently considering various methods of establishing
management bodies comprising indigenous inhabitants of Alaska
state and Service officials to recommend annual regulations for
hunts. These management bodies will be separate from the
Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils. When an
process is proposed, the Service will publish a notice in the Federal
Register and seek public comment.

Who will be eligible to participate in subsistence harvests?

The protocol establishes eligibility for the "indigenous inhabitants of
Alaska." Indigenous inhabitants are defined as permanent residents of a
village within a subsistence harvest
regardless of race. Subsistence harvest areas are established
include most village areas within the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Archipelago,
the Aleutian Islands, and areas north and west of
Alaska Range. Areas that would generally not qualify include
Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna and Fairbanks North Star Boroughs,
Kenai Peninsula roaded area, the Gulf of Alaska roaded area,
Southeast Alaska.  Exceptions to these areas can be made
through a
deliberative process which includes the management bodies established by
the Service.

What uses will be permitted for birds and eggs under the protocol?

The protocol permits the harvesting of birds, nests and eggs
are not threatened, endangered or otherwise of concern due to population
declines, for personal consumption. The protocol
allows the taking of birds, nests and eggs for scientific, educational,
religious or other purposes, so long as they are consistent with the
purposes of the treaty and a permit has
obtained from the Service.

What will the Service policy be until subsistence harvest regulations are

The Service will continue to exercise discretion in its
of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and will not strictly enforce
closed season in rural areas in Alaska where people have long relied on
locally harvested waterfowl for food during spring
summer. This policy will remain in effect, provided that subsistence
harvest of a particular species will not affect its populations.  This
policy also prohibits the wasting of any migratory bird, the use of private
or charter aircraft to
hunting of any migratory bird, and prohibits possession or use
lead shot while hunting waterfowl. The enforcement policy
only during the closed season, between March 10 and September
1. In
areas other than those described above, the Service will
the closed season and all other regulations for hunting
birds from September 1 to March 10 as throughout the rest of

The Service recognizes that among subsistence users there is a
range in the level of understanding of the impacts of spring
summer harvest of waterfowl and the need to reduce mortality, especially
when populations become depressed. The Service will continue educational
efforts to expand the understanding of
relationship and will consider the varying levels of
when carrying out enforcement efforts on a statewide basis.

How will threatened and endangered migratory bird species in
be affected by a subsistence harvest?

Service enforcement efforts in Alaska during the closed season
concentrate on violations that have the most serious impacts on threatened
and endangered migratory bird populations, as well
migratory bird populations in decline. The Service will give special
attention to the protection of spectacled and Steller's eiders, cackling
Canada geese, emperor geese, Pacific
geese, and black brant. These species have suffered severe

population declines in recent years and need special protection.
The following provisions will be strictly enforced:

          No taking of spectacled or Steller's eiders at any

          No taking of emperor geese at any time

          No taking of cackling Canada geese or black brant
during the
     nesting, brood-rearing, and flightless period

          No taking of Pacific white-fronted geese, in the
coastal areas
     of western Alaska south of Norton Sound, during the
     brood-rearing, and flightless periods

          No taking of the eggs of spectacled or Steller's
     emperor geese, cackling Canada geese or black brant

Although all waterfowl hunters in Alaska have been required to
non-toxic shot since 1991, this has not been an enforcement priority in the
past with regard to subsistence hunting.
recent studies have confirmed lead shot poisoning in spectacled eiders and
other species of waterfowl harvested by subsistence hunters in Alaska.
Therefore anyone possessing lead shot while waterfowl hunting will be
subject to enforcement action,
of time or place.

What other amendments does the protocol make to the treaty?

For Canada, a process for this spring/summer hunt will be based upon the
conservation provisions within existing and developing land claims
agreements and treaties.  In addition, the
provide for regulating the existing murre hunt in Newfoundland

The amendments provide a provision that each country will use
authority to protect and conserve habitats essential to
bird populations.  This includes preventing damage resulting
pollution; controlling the importation of live animals and
which  could be hazardous to birds; and controlling the introduction of
live animals and plants which could disturb the ecological balance of
unique island environments.

The amendments sets out a formal consultation process by which
U.S. and Canada agree to meet regularly to review the progress
implementation of the convention and any other related issues.

Articles that dealt with protection of specific species such as wood ducks
(depleted early in this century) deemed to be unnecessary and out-of-date
were deleted and replaced with
that requires the governments to review the progress of the treaty's
implementation on a regular basis.  In addition,
IV, based on the U.S.- Japan Migratory Bird Convention, is a recognition of
the important role habitat protection plays in
maintenance of migratory bird populations.

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