Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mixed Feelings

Hooray for the Bald Eagle:

June 27, 2007 — The American bald eagle, once nearly extinct, is making a comeback. The government will confirm that when it takes the revered bird off a list of protected species on Thursday.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne will make the announcement at a ceremony near the Jefferson Memorial, a day before a court-directed deadline for his department to decide the eagle's status.

Conservationists have hailed the successful recovery of the eagle as clear evidence that the Endangered Species Act, which has been under attack in recent years from business groups and some members of Congress, can work.

Government biologists have documented nearly 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles, including at least one pair in each of the 48 contiguous states. This compares to only 417 such pairs in 1963 when the bird was on the verge of disappearing everywhere in the country except for Alaska.

While no longer declared endangered, the bald eagle will continue to be protected by a 1940 federal law that will make it illegal to kill the bird — as well as state statutes.

Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service also is preparing guidelines for protecting the bird's nesting habitat under the 1940 law and developing a permitting process that landowners will have to use if eagles are found on property they want to disturb.


Despite its status as the country's national symbol, the bald eagle over the years has been abused and maligned as a scavenger and dangerous predator. Tens of thousands of the birds were killed by hunters over the years. But the bird's decline accelerated when it became the victim of DDT, the insecticide widely used after World War II on plants to control mosquitoes. The DDT found its way into lakes and streams and into fish, the eagle's favorite food.

But is does make me wonder... why has the Endangered Species Act been under attack recently? Sounds like one of John Stewart's "you don't know Dick" segments, but I just want to point out that in all of this happy hoopla about the success of the Endangered Species Act, there are people that might be looking forward to the Eagle's removal from this list to make it easier to build on previously protected land or use toxins previously banned to protect bald eagles. I'm not jumping in and saying there will be an immediate slacking of law for the purpose of business thanks to this triumph. But you should probably be aware that recently business has ramped up the desire to peal back environmental laws with the intent to make a bunch of money. While I'm all about making money, I don't think filling one man's pocket is worth putting another creature onto the endangered species list.

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