Federal/State Permitting

One of the things that George Allen brought up was that the joint federal and state permitting system for falconry is planned to go away, to be replaced by permits issued by each state.

While some falconers and NAFA have urged getting the federal permits out of the picture, my personal experience has been that having the federal permit is a plus when travelling or moving. Most law enforcement personnel are not well acquainted with falconry regulations, and with the proliferation of traffic checkpoints, one can easily see how an encounter that goes well given paperwork that clearly shows that falconry is controlled at the federal level might not go so well if the paperwork only shows a state other than the one where one meets up with local authorities.

So I’m going to be making a couple of arguments to Allen (and FWS) on this matter.

First, the individual states are not signatories to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It is because the USA is a signatory to this international treaty that falconry permits are even necessary. The states cannot offer a “permit” under MBTA because they have no part of it. So I see a simple dichotomy here: either we need a federal permit showing our compliance with MBTA, or no permits at all are needed to be in compliance with MBTA.

Second, if there is something about the law in this case that renders the above invalid, it is still the case that FWS has to certify state programs for compliance with MBTA. I think, then, that part of that compliance would be to have any permits issued by states say something to this effect: “United States Falconry Permit, issued under the authority of the state of X”, with specific language on the permit itself saying that falconers have the right to travel through any state where possession of the species of raptor is legal. (Some states, like Hawaii, don’t allow raptors entry, but Hawaii is not a big potential problem, either.) The FWS should ensure that any state issuing permits guarantees reciprocal recognition of permits from all other states, and this should be spelled out on the permit that each falconer carries. It is only with this sort of pre-emptive language that falconers will be able to avoid untold unpleasantness when travelling to national meets or moving to a new state.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.