Six years after the federal government first proposed removing the bald eagle from the list of endangered and threatened species, a new survey of state wildlife agencies and the US Fish & Wildlife Service conducted by Environmental Defense shows the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states has surpassed 8,200. The number represents a 40% increase since the government first proposed the delisting the species on July 6, 1999.
The most current state-by-state count of eagle pairs is included in Environmental Defense's report "The Eagle Is Back: 2005 Update" and can be found at http://www.backfromthebrink.org/inthespotlight.cfm?subnav=story&ContentID=4559.
"The soaring eagle population continues to show that this species has indeed come back from the brink," said Michael Bean, co-director of Environmental Defense's Center for Conservation Incentives. "It's time for the government to recognize this amazing conservation success, declare victory for the bald eagle and free up its limited resources for the 1,200 other endangered species whose fate is far less certain."
From fewer than 500 in the 1960s, the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles rose to 5,787 by 1999, thanks to the banning of DDT and significant restoration efforts across the country. Last year, when Environmental Defense publicly urged President Bush to complete the delisting process, the number had reached 7,678. Following our appeal in May 2004, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson told AP that the species would be delisted by the end of 2004.
Once delisted, the eagle will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act – both of which prohibit killing or hunting eagles – as well as individual state laws. This continuing protection will ensure that eagles continue to thrive in the lower 48 states.
"More and more, the government is asking private landowners to become partners in restoring habitat for other endangered species," Bean said. "But it has failed to prove that it will keep its promise of removing species when they recover. Delisting the bald eagle will show that our government intends to honor its commitment to its endangered species and its landowners."
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