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Bald Eagles removed from the Endangered Species List

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Monday, July 02, 2007]

This Independence Day the United States has another reason to celebrate. The population of American Bald Eagles, the majestic symbol of this great nation, has made such a recovery that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced last week that it will be removed from both the Endangered Species list and Threatened Species List.

According to the USFWS in 1963 there were barely 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles left in the lower 48 states. Since then their numbers have increased 25 fold and some 10,000 pairs of Bald Eagles now call the lower 48 states home. While they will no longer be a listed species, they will still be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibit taking, killing, selling or otherwise harming of eagles, their nests or eggs.

It should be emphasized, that the bald eagle was only on the Endangered Species List in the lower 48 states and that they were not endangered in Alaska. In fact, when I lived in the island fishing community of Sitka Alaska (population 8,500) some twelve to fifteen years ago, I worked at one of the two chain fast food restaurants there. The restaurant was on waterfront property and if one went in to open the restaurant in the early morning and the tide was out, quite frequently there would be dozens of bald eagles on the shoreline fishing. During the summer months it was routine to have up to almost a dozen bald eagles sitting it the top of a partially dead tree at the edge of the parking lot. They would spend their day watching the activity around our drive-thru and watching the swarms of ravens and seagulls fighting over French fries the customers would toss to the smaller birds. The eagles sitting in rows in the tree watching the activities almost reminded one of an audience in a theater watching a play.

In a park where I frequently played disc golf with a friend, it was common for eagles to be sitting in the top of trees watching the activities below them. They really seemed to be a curious bird that enjoyed simply watching the activities of the day from high up in their perches. It was in this park that I had one of my strangest encounters with a bald eagle. We were playing disc golf, when suddenly we heard the sound of crashing branches. We looked up just in time to see an eagle tumbling through the forest and crash into the forest floor in the most inglorious way. We were very dumbfounded and simply stared at the eagle in disbelief. The giant bird repeatedly tried to gain flight to get out of the forest, but its wingspan was too long and it kept crashing into branches, which would again bring it to the ground. The routine of it hoping along the ground for a few yards, trying to gain flight and then crashing back to the earth because of tree branches continued for a few minutes until finally, the eagle made it to a clearing big enough to gain flight unimpeded by trees. For such a majestic bird, this was a very inglorious event.

With all the environmental battles and news of doom and gloom, sometimes it is really nice to be able to write on an environmental success story like bald eagles being removed from the Endangered and Threatened Species List. You can read all about this delisting on the USFWS bald eagle website.

Oh and this Wednesday, if like me you will be celebrating our nation's independence, say a thank you to the so often maligned Endangered Species Act for helping to bring about the return of our national symbol. While we are celebrating this success, we should not forget the other less charismatic but no less deserving animals on the Endangered Species List like snail darters, delta smelt, etc.


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