Environmental Defense released a new analysis of the bald eagle's status and called on President Bush to expedite the delisting of the bald eagle from the endangered and threatened species list. The call for action came as Environmental Defense launched its national Back from the Brink campaign, a multi-year effort to recover 15 endangered species in more than 20 states.
"The only thing standing between the bald eagle and its official recovery is a mandate from the president," said Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp. "President Bush can make history by completing a recovery effort that began more than 30 years ago."
The eagle was originally proposed for delisting in 1999, after the banning of DDT in 1972 and the enactment of the Endangered Species Act helped the species' numbers increase from fewer than 500 breeding pairs in the continental U.S. to more than 5,700. Today, the number exceeds 7,600 breeding pairs. The Eagle Is Back, a new analysis by Environmental Defense, documents the eagle's progress since 1998 and is available at www.backfromthebrink.org.
"The recovery of the bald eagle is proof positive of the potential of America's conservation and restoration efforts," said Krupp. "It is time to celebrate the comeback of our national symbol, declare victory for this treasured animal and set America's sights on other species that can be put on the road to recovery."
Officials from Environmental Defense were joined at the event by Sens. Michael Crapo (R-ID) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) and landowners who have enrolled in voluntary conservation projects with Environmental Defense – Bob Long of Bastrop, Texas, Herb Schmidt of the Robert Mondavi Company in California, Mark Clement of Norfolk-Southern in South Carolina and LeRoy Latham of Wisconsin.
The campaign will focus specifically on the restoration of private land habitat. Environmental Defense will expand existing on-the-ground restoration projects, launch new initiatives with private landowners and help direct federal and private funding of incentive-based conservation projects that reduce bureaucratic red tape and land-use restrictions and provide economic incentives to landowners who volunteer to restore habitat on their land.
The vast majority of wildlife and plants on the endangered species list will only recover if their habitat is restored and actively managed. And because most of these species rely in whole or in part on private lands for their survival, private landowners will play a pivotal role in their recovery.
"Most species cannot be recovered simply by stopping destructive activity," said Michael Bean, co-director of Environmental Defense's Center for Conservation Incentives. "Their habitat needs to be restored by the people who own it. The good news is that this kind of restoration is already happening. Our approach has worked everywhere we've tried it, and the easier we make it for landowners to participate, the faster real progress toward recovery will be made."
At the center of Environmental Defense's conservation projects are incentive-based tools like Safe Harbor, a volunteer program that significantly reduces landowners' liability and regulatory burden if they agree to restore habitat for an endangered species. Such agreements are already in place in a dozen states and cover nearly three million acres. The newest Safe Harbor agreement was signed March 10, 2004 in Bastrop, Texas, home of the Houston toad, one of the 15 Back from the Brink species.
The 15 Back from the Brink species were selected based on: their dependence on private lands and, therefore, the likelihood of benefiting from incentive-based, landowner-centric conservation tools; the potential to illustrate significant progress toward recovery in the next 10 years; and the availability of known and proven restoration techniques. Environmental Defense also selected species in regions where its staff can assist in the recovery efforts.
Visitors to www.backfromthebrink.org can:
- Download Environmental Defense's new report The Eagle Is Back, including eagle data for all 48 contiguous states;
- Browse factsheets and photos of the 15 targeted species;
View landowner profiles and interviews;
- Take the Back from the Brink Eagle Pledge to support endangered species recovery;
- Sign the online petition to help complete the delisting of the bald eagle;
- Learn about Environmental Defense's incentive-based conservation tools like Safe Harbor; and
- Support Back from the Brink conservation efforts by donating online.
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