Oral Testimony of the GLFA

Oral Testimony of the Great Lakes Falconers Association at the January 23, 2009

Public Hearing of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board in the matter of:
Changes to the List of Threatened and Endangered Species
Offered by Craig Hendee, President, Great Lakes Falconers Association
The Great Lakes Falconers Association (“GLFA”) respectfully requests that the
Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board (“Board”) remove the Peregrine Falcon
from the Illinois List of Endangered and Threatened Species (“List”) during the present
round of review for reasons summarized in this oral testimony and to be further supported
in our forthcoming written testimony.
The Peregrine Falcon was originally listed as endangered in Illinois for only one
reason – Falco peregrinus anatum (American Peregrine), a species extirpated in Illinois,
and F. p. tundrius (Tundra Peregrine), which was never documented as a nesting species
in Illinois, were “classified as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species
Protection Act of 1973, P.L. 93-205.”(1) Otherwise, the Peregrine (F. p. anatum) was not
“in danger of extinction in the wild in Illinois.”(1) It was already extirpated like the
Buffalo and does not qualify for listing under the Illinois Endangered Species Act. For
such reasons, the Board was reluctant to commit state funds when the concept of
Peregrine introduction into Illinois first surfaced in 1985, suggesting funding should be
directed towards “the protection of those species who where currently in danger of
extirpation.”(2) Board members also pointed out that there is “a lack of historical records
to indicate that the species was [ever] a prominent member of the breeding avifauna of
the state.”(3) Nonetheless, once it was established that a Peregrine introduction program
would be primarily funded and managed by non-state money, the Board eventually
embraced the idea.
The Illinois Peregrine introduction program began in 1986 when captive bred
Peregrines were hacked (fed and watched at platforms until young birds fledged and were
able to survive on their own) in downtown Chicago and then in Fort Sheridan and other
non-city sites,(7) “as downtown Chicago is no longer a suitable site,”(4) in part because of
the dangers encountered by fledgling Peregrines falling onto busy streets. Hacked
Peregrines were composed of subspecies hybrids not limited to mixtures of F. p. anatum,
F. p. tundrius, F. p. pealei, F. p. peregrinus, F. p. brookei and F. p. casini - with a few
exceptions, whatever breeding stock was in the hands of breeders prior to passage of the
Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (Public Law 91–135, 83 Stat. 275). The
release program therefore consisted of introducing an artificial bird in an artificial
environment. Hacking dramatically decreased in Illinois by the mid-1990s, and by 2007,
a 4-year running average of 14 breeding pairs of artificial Peregrines were established
and producing a 4-year running average of 2.20 young/pair.(20) The search for breeding
pairs outside of selected urban areas in Illinois has not occurred.
The USFWS down-listed the Tundra and the American Peregrine in the 1980s and
1990s. By 1998 the federal recovery plan goals for the Eastern Management zone was
met (193 breeding pairs producing an average of 1.5 young/pair compared to a recovery
goal of 175 to 200 pairs and 1.5 young/pair) and the goal for the Great Lakes unit was far
surpassed (40 breeding pairs producing 1.92 young/pair compared to a recovery goal of
20 to 25 pairs producing 1.5 young/pair).(9) By 1999 USFWS considered the Peregrine to
be fully recovered well beyond self-sustainable and harvestable levels across the entire
U.S., resulting in the Peregrine’s complete removal from the federal threatened species
list.(9) By 2007 a 4-year running average of 201 breeding pairs was established and
producing a 4-year running average of 2.09 young/pair in the Great Lakes unit, exceeding
the federal recovery goals for breeding pairs by 10-fold and for productivity by 40%.(20)
A similar increase in Peregrine numbers is supported by migration counts across the
country, especially along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Between 2000 and 2007
the number of Peregrines counted at Illinois Beach State Park increased from 88 to
241.(22) Approximately 95% of the Peregrines migrating autumnally through Illinois are
F. p. tundrius, and the vast majority pass through between September 15 and October
As a follow-up to delisting, USFWS published a Final Environmental Assessment
(FEA) in 2004 to allow a harvest of nestling Peregrines(16) in western states and an FEA
for migrant Peregrines across the U.S. in 2008.(24) The 2008 FEA essentially replaced the
2004 FEA and: allows a conservative annual harvest of up to 1% (36 individual birds
collectively in all states east of the 100th meridian) of a conservatively estimated
population of Peregrines with a goal of up to 5% in the near future in conformance with
general sustainable harvest levels for other raptor species(23); implements a harvest
strategy to ensure the 1% allowance will not be exceeded and harvest of Peregrine
subpopulations will be minimal; and encourages states to work with the Flyway Councils
to distribute the harvest allotment in an equitable way. The strategy includes limiting
harvest to the time slot 20 September through 20 October, when migrants are
predominated by Tundra Peregrines. An added protection layer has been included in new
federal Regulations, modified concurrently with the 2008 FEA, wherein it is required that
previously banded raptors, including Peregrines, must be released upon capture.(25)
Numerous states have down-listed or delisted the Peregrine and have allowed or will
soon allow a Peregrine harvest. Other states are in the process of down-listing or
delisting the Peregrine. States that allow or will soon allow Peregrine harvest include,
but are not limited to: Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, California, Colorado,
Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas and Florida
In 1999, following advanced notification from the Board of their intentions to revise
the Illinois Endangered and Threatened Species List, GLFA on several occasions met
with the Board to revisit the Peregrine. In response, and over GLFA’s objection, the
Board drafted a narrowly focused Peregrine Falcon Reclassification Goals
model.(8,10,11,12,13) In 1999 and 2000 GLFA also had discussions with the Board over a
suite of Peregrine management alternatives, nearly identical to those that were
subsequently adopted by USFWS in 2008, that would allow harvest of Tundra Peregrines
without interfering with the artificial population of Peregrines nesting in the Chicago
Metropolitan area. GLFA pointed out at the time that F. p. anatum was extirpated in
Illinois, that the Peregrine was federally delisted and no longer qualified for listing under
Illinois Law or Regulation and that the Board recognizes subspecies and has the authority
and precedence for doing the same with the Tundra Peregrine. GLFA also offered a
workable strategy to the Board which could eventually allow harvest of Tundra Falcons
(once the federal harvest management plan became finalized) again without interfering
with artificial population of Illinois Peregrines. Instead, the Board finalized their draft
Peregrine Falcon Reclassification Goals in November 2000 and down-listed the Peregrine
to threatened in 2004, five years after the Peregrine was deemed fully recovered by
GLFA, a Not-for-profit Corporation in Illinois since 1963, is a longstanding group
dedicated to the art of falconry and the well being and conservation of raptors and other
resources our members intimately and constantly contact when we practice our art. Over
the years our organization and many of its members have maintained a very good
working relationship with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and other
state and federal agencies through our voluntary participation in various programs
designed to preserve, enhance and educate the public on raptors and many other natural
resources. In the words of several Illinois wildlife regulators, “Illinois falconers are one
of the most respected and conscientious wildlife groups in the state.” Our members’
volunteer work and monetary contributions include, but are not limited to:
1) Spearheading the fight against the use of fenthion and its detrimental affects on nontarget
2) Supporting the Board in past endangered and threatened species evaluations,
including the Peregrine, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk and Cooper’s
3) Conducting research on raptors, including the Peregrine; assisting raptor researchers
within IDNR and other Illinois and federal wildlife Agencies and not-for profit
organizations; and cooperating with and assisting other raptor-oriented organizations
such as the Raptor Center, the Peregrine Fund and Hawk Migration Association of
North America.
4) Educating landfill operators on the prevention of raptor injury and death caused by
off-gas torches.
5) Participating at the table of Conservation 2000
6) Participating in stewardship and monitoring activities at nature preserves and other
ecologically sensitive and valuable areas.
7) Providing raptor education programs to schools and other groups.
8) Writing letters to the editor on the importance of protecting our raptor resource.
9) Recognizing and alerting wildlife agencies of trends suggesting wild raptor species
may be imperiled, including the Peregrine.
10) Inventing and participating in the captive propagation and reintroduction of the
Peregrine and other listed species, without which the Peregrine would still be
imperiled today. (27)
11) Rehabilitating injured raptors for later release, including Peregrines.
12) Participating in numerous other raptor and outdoor oriented programs, sometimes on
behalf of IDNR; including, but not limited to Great Lakes Migratory Bird Stopover
Habitat Project
13) Contributing funds to the Raptor Center and the Peregrine Fund directed at Peregrine
and other raptor research and recovery efforts.
14) Authorizing funding for stable isotope analysis of Peregrine feathers collected in
GLFA is respectfully testifying here today to urge the Board to delist the Peregrine
from the Illinois List during the current round of revisions. As has already been stated
and will be further demonstrated in our follow-up written testimony and at the meeting
next month, the Peregrine is a recovered bird and does not biologically, legally or
ethically qualify for inclusion on the Illinois List. We also believe, as have Board
members in the past, that severely limited and shrinking available resources should be
directed towards protecting and improving the well being of populations of truly
threatened and endangered species. The Great Lakes Falconers Association commits to
continue to work with IDNR to arrive at a workable strategy for harvesting Tundra
Peregrines that at the same time does not interfere with the introduced population of
Illinois Peregrines.
I personally, and on the behalf of the Great Lakes Falconers Association, thank the
Board for the opportunity to provide oral testimony here today and we will further
augment our testimony in writing by the close of the written comment period as
Respectfully submitted by,
Craig Hendee
President, Great Lakes Falconers Association
Supporting References (To be submitted with written testimony)
1) Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act, 520 ILCS 10/
2) Minutes of the 50th Meeting, IESPB, January 25, 1985 (On file with IESPB)
3) Minutes of the 53rd Meeting (Missing pages 2 and 4), IESPB, November 8, 1985
(On file with IESPB)
4) Minutes of the 59th Meeting, IESPB, July 10, 1987 (On file with IESPB)
5) Minutes of the 61st Meeting, IESPB, May 20, 1988 (On file with IESPB)
6) Minutes of the 101st Meeting, IESPB, August 21, 1998 (On file with IESPB)
7) The Status of the Chicago Peregrine Release and Restoration Project, Chicago
Academy of Sciences, Mary Hennen, September, 1994
8) Minutes of the 105th Meeting, IESPB, August 20, 1999 (On file with IESPB)
9) Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To Remove the
American Peregrine Falcon From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife, and To Remove the Similarity of Appearance Provision for Free-Flying
Peregrines in the Conterminous United States, Federal Register / Vol. 64, No. 164
/ Wednesday, August 25, 1999 / Rules and Regulations
10) Minutes of the 107th Meeting, IESPB, May 19, 2000 (On file with IESPB)
11) Minutes of Informal Meeting, IESPB, August 18, 2000 (On file with IESPB)
12) Draft Peregrine Falcon Reclassification Goals, IESPB, October 23, 2000 (On file
with IESPB)
13) Minutes of the 108th Meeting, IESPB, November 17, 2000 (On file with IESPB)
14) Monitoring Plan for the American Peregrine Falcon, A Species Recovered Under
the Endangered Species Act, USFWS, December 2003
15) Minutes of the 121st Meeting, IESPB, Feb. 20, 2004 (On file with IESPB)
17) Minutes of the 122nd Meeting, IESPB, May 21, 2004 (On file with IESPB)
18) Midwest Peregrine Society 2006 Project History (http://midwestperegrine.org/)
19) Peregrine 2000 to 2007 Unpublished Lake Michigan Banding Data Summary
20) Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration 1987 to 2007 Annual Reports, Midwest
Peregrine Society (http://midwestperegrine.org/)
21) Peregrine 1987 to 2007 Midwest Breeding Summary (Attached)
22) Peregrine 2000 to 2007 Illinois Beach State Park Count Summary (Attached)
23) Final Environmental Assessment on Take of Raptors From the Wild for Falconry
and Raptor Propagation, USFWS, June 2007
TAKE, USFWS, August 2008
25) 50 CFR Parts 21 and 22 Migratory Bird Permits; Changes in the Regulations
Governing Falconry; Final Rule; USFWS; Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 196 /
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 / Rules and Regulations
26) Take of Migrant Peregrine Falcons in the United States for Use in Falconry,
USFWS, Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 236 / Monday, December 8, 2008 /
27) E-mail correspondence between Bill Murrin and Florida Fish & Wildlife
Conservation Commission, January 2009.