Bald Eagle Fights for Foothold After Being Stripped of ESA Status
Americans voice concern over future of national bird.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feature News Story, October 17, 2006
Pigeon Forge, TN, October 17, 2006 – The American Bald Eagle is set to be stripped of its Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. The anticipated date is by June 29, 2007. With more than 7,000 pairs in the lower 48 states, eagle numbers have jumped markedly from the 417 pairs tallied in the DDT-driven 1960s – but many Americans remain unconvinced that the eagle is truly home free.
In 1999, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the matter of the Bald Eagle’s delisting up for public comment. At that time, more than 10% of all the public feedback they received expressed serious concern over how the eagle population would be monitored and habitat preserved after the delisting.
Al Cecere, President of the not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation (www.eagles.org), says his fellow citizens have good cause for concern. “The Bald Eagle will soon come off the ESA’s threatened species list, but it has still not fully recovered. It will cost millions of dollars to monitor and protect eagle nests, located mostly on private lands, for the remainder of this decade and beyond,” says Cecere, who has championed the eagle cause for more than 20 years.
Cecere notes that neither the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 nor the Migratory Bird Act will sufficiently protect eagle nesting and foraging habitat, as well as the ESA presently does. In fact, some private landowners and developers are eager to see the Bald Eagle’s delisting finalized and federal control substantially weakened. Although eagles will continue to receive some protection under the Eagle Act, the ESA delisting means the end of strictly regulated government-imposed buffer zones around eagle nests located on private property. Florida has the largest Bald Eagle nesting population (about 1,100 nests) outside of Alaska, but building construction is increasing at an incredibly rapid rate. Florida’s resident eagles are quickly running out of nesting territory, and their overall population is not increasing as steadily as it once did.
Presently, the ESA requires that a species be monitored for at least five years after it is delisted. But because the eagle will still face so many “post-delisting” challenges – from less of crucial nesting habitat to the physical threats of contaminants, poisons, West Nile Virus and Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy (AVM) – many eagle experts, like Cecere, recommend that the monitoring period be extended and fully funded. The Tuscon Audubon Society, for example, has suggested a period of at least 15 years for Arizona populations.
However, future care of the national icon in the lower 48 states comes with a hefty price tag that will have to be supported mostly by the generosity of the American public. In just 10 years (1989 to 1998), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spent an estimated $69 million on eagle recovery and protection programs. But that governmental “funding well” is about to run dry. “When eagles lose their coveted Endangered Species Act protection, they will also lose what little government funding they once had”, states Cecere. “Eagle groups and agencies should not have to resort to panhandling to watch over and help sustain our national bird.”
In response to the proposed delisting and related funding need, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), has recently created a special “American Eagle Fund” designed to set aside a financial “nest egg” to care for Bald Eagles in the wild for generations to come. Cecere and his organization’s famous free-flying eagle ambassador ‘Challenger’ have appeared coast to coast – from the White House to National Anthem “fly-ins” at New York Yankees games – to promote eagle protection issues.
In 2004, the AEF spearheaded passage of Bald Eagle Coin Act (H.R. 4116) legislation, which was unanimously approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The law authorizes the U.S. Mint to create and market a commemorative coin set celebrating the dramatic return of the eagle to America’s lands, waterways and skies and the 35th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. It could potentially raise $10 million for the American Eagle Fund if fully supported by collectors and the general public.
Says Cecere, “Continuing recovery programs, nest monitoring, cooperative land agreements, research and private property purchases will need to be aggressively pursued. Such a national undertaking is a tall order and will take substantial funding. We can’t delay, and need the support of every patriotic American who values this living symbol of freedom and its proud heritage.”
Indeed, back when European settlers first came to North America, there may have been more than 100,000 Bald Eagle pairs – making the current “rebound” in the contiguous states less than 10% of the original population. Based on the flood of public concern about the Bald Eagle’s upcoming delisting, many Americans agree wholeheartedly with Cecere when he says, “Bringing back this majestic species is only half the battle – now we must secure its future for generations to come. The Bald Eagle is a precious national treasure we should all care about and help.
CONTACT: Al Cecere, Founder/President, American Eagle Foundation, 1-865-429-0157, firstname.lastname@example.org.
General Bald Eagle Info: American Eagle Foundation, www.eagles.org
Legislation: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/index.html.
Delisting Federal Court Order:http://www.martenlaw.com/news/?20060913-delist-bald-eagles