More than five years after proposing to take the bald eagle off the endangered species list and declare victory for our national symbol, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has still failed to complete the paperwork.
"The eagle has recovered, and the federal government has had ample time to finish the job," said Dr. Timothy Male, an Environmental Defense ecologist. "The eagles' numbers scream 'We're Back!,' but the process has dragged on and on. If we want Americans to have faith in their government's conservation efforts, our leaders need to declare victory when it's been won. There is no clearer victory in the history of the Endangered Species Act."
Thanks to the banning of DDT and significant restoration efforts across the country, the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles reached 5,787 in 1999, up from fewer than 500 in the 1960s. Since the original delisting proposal in July 1999, the number has increased another 33% to 7,678.
In Minnesota, the latest count of breeding pairs of eagles is 681, up from 618 in 1998. That's the 3rd highest number in the lower 48 states.
A state-by-state count of eagle pairs is included in Environmental Defense's report "The Eagle Is Back" and can be found at www.backfromthebrink.org.
"The bald eagle's success is a model for what should be done and what can be done to bring our endangered species back from the brink," Male said. "It shows that recovery, not just protection, is possible."
Contact Environmental Defense at 202-387-3500 for more information about the eagle's national recovery. For information about the eagle's recovery in Minnesota, contact Rich Baker of the Department of Natural Resources at 651-297-3764.
Even after coming off the endangered species list, the eagle will be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which will provide continued protection for breeding eagles.
Environmental Defense appealed to President Bush to finish the delisting process in May 2004 as it announced the Back from the Brink endangered species recovery campaign, a multi-year effort to restore private land habitat for 15 endangered species in more than 20 states. The bald eagle and its remarkable comeback have served as the campaign's icons of species recovery.
More information about the eagle's recovery and Environmental Defense's new Back from the Brink species restoration effort can be found at www.backfromthebrink.org, including:
- Environmental Defense's May 2004 letter to President Bush asking for his help in completing the eagle's recovery, and Interior Secretary Gale Norton's response;
- The Eagle Is Back, a report on the bald eagle's status in the lower 48 states; and
- Information about the 15 endangered species that Environmental Defense will help restore over the next 10 years.
Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 400,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.
www.backfromthebrink.org --- www.environmentaldefense.org