Congress Approves Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act
Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Bill celebrates and protects America’s living symbol of freedom and democracy. Bill now goes to President.
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, December 9, 2004 – While Congress was busy debating and passing a suitable Intelligence bill to help defend our nation’s security and freedoms, the very symbol of those rights (and the U.S.A. itself) was also getting a big boost to secure its own future health and welfare. The “American Bald Eagle Recovery & National Emblem Commemorative Coin Act” (H.R. 4116 & S.2889) was unanimously passed by the House and Senate by the end of the 108th Congress on Wednesday evening.
“We are very grateful to Senator Frist, Senator Alexander, Senator Landrieu, Congressman Jenkins, Congressman Harold Ford and others for believing in this important effort to recognize and preserve our country’s living symbol of freedom,” said American Eagle Foundation Founder & President Al Cecere, “The warm welcome given to our staff and trained bald eagle on Capitol Hill, and the amazing groundswell of support this legislation received from elected representatives across the nation was a very special Christmas blessing for our national bird.”
The not-for-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF), headquartered at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, originated the concept for the bill a few years ago. Their staff and trained celebrity bald eagle ‘Challenger’ recently visited 100 senate offices in a marathon 7 ½ day effort to educate representatives about bald eagle concerns and garner final support needed to pass the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Frist made a special five-minute comment about the AEF, Challenger and the legislation from the Senate floor soon after the bill had been officially approved.
As a result of the educational visits, more than 40 U.S. Senators met directly with the AEF and “Challenger”, and 70 senators immediately agreed to support the bill by signing on as co-sponsors. In April 2004, similar visits were made to numerous Congressional representatives in the House, and 300 co-sponsors were enlisted by the end of June.
The AEF needed 67 co-sponsors in the Senate and 290 co-sponsors in the House to advance the bills out of their respective financial and banking committees for floor votes on Tuesday (House) and Wednesday (Senate).
“On June 20, 1782, the U.S.A.’s Founding Fathers selected the Bald Eagle as the central image of the United States national emblem at the Second Continental Congress,” said AEF founder and president Al Cecere, “Since then, this majestic bird has come to represent the spirit of Freedom and Democracy that makes our nation great, and needs our continued vigilance and help.”
The “Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act” recognizes and celebrates the recovery and success story of the American Eagle, but also its great importance as a distinctive and unifying National Symbol.
Senate and House versions of the bill were introduced by Congressman Bill Jenkins (R-TN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) during 2004. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the entire Tennessee delegation and others also worked diligently behind the scenes to ensure that the legislation passed by the end of the 108th Congress.
The bill is supported by a number of national civic, fraternal and conservation groups, including the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, American Zoo & Aquarium Association, Fraternal Order of Eagles, National Wild Turkey Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Jack Hanna – Columbus Zoo, and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn – State of Illinois.
When signed into law by the President (within the next 10 days), the legislation would authorize the U.S. Mint to create and market a three-coin gold, silver and clad set ($5, $1 and $.50 pieces) in 2008 (the 35th Anniversary of the ESA). The AEF is hopeful that one of the coins will feature the image of Challenger.
“The Bald Eagle has been making a gradual and encouraging comeback in the lower 48 States. Although presently classified as a ‘Threatened Species’ under the Endangered Species Act, our National Bird may soon be ‘delisted’ from ESA protection,” said Cecere. “Then we’ll need additional funding support to keep it flying strong and free for the future”.
“Under ESA provisions, a recovered species must be monitored by Federal and State wildlife agencies for a period of at least 5 years after being ‘delisted’, said Cecere, “Therefore, the Bald Eagle will require substantial funding to conduct on-going eagle recovery projects, including nest monitoring programs and related public awareness efforts.”
A surcharge from the sale of each coin sold will be earmarked to create an American Eagle Fund endowment managed by the AEF. If the coin set sells out, it has the potential of raising $10,750,000 for eagles. The AEF will be looking for conservation and patriotic minded corporations, philanthropists and foundations to match that amount. Similar minted coin sets have generated millions of dollars in surcharges for other causes.
Once the proposed U.S. Mint coin set has sold out, the annual interest generated from surcharge revenues placed in the American Eagle Fund would be disbursed (in the form of competitive grants) to support on-going state, federal and private eagle care, monitoring and protection programs within the five U.S.F.W.S. Bald Eagle Recovery Regions. At least fifty-percent of such annual grant monies would be earmarked to support eagle programs managed by various State fish and wildlife agencies.
“Working together as caring and concerned citizens, we can help keep America’s eagles flying strong and free for future generations to enjoy,” said Cecere.