Gainesville Sun (Gainesville.Com)
July 4, 2007
Today, on America’s birthday, Freedom, Spirit, and Democracy will rise from the Great Smoky Mountains in a celebratory flight of independence.
Freedom, Spirit, and Democracy are three Bald Eagles hatched and raised in captivity. It is appropriate that, as the nation celebrates the 231st anniversary of its own Declaration of Independence, these three living, breathing symbols of the American spirit will experience freedom for the first time. And their chances of surviving and thriving are pretty good.
Just last month, the Department of the Interior removed the Bald Eagle from the endangered list. That a species once threatened with extinction has rebounded (in 1962, there were just 417 nesting pairs remaining in America, today there are an estimated 10,000 pairs) is testament to the fact that the Endangered Species Act works.
“The dramatic comeback of the Bald Eagle from the brink of extinction is a great conservation success story,” says Al Cecere, founder and president of the American Eagle Foundation, the nonprofit group that is releasing Freedom, Spirit, and Democracy today.
“The release of these majestic birds on our nation’s birthday is a fitting gift to Americans everywhere.”
The good news about the American Bald Eagle, however, masks troubling news about the future of the Endangered Species Act itself. The act has been under constant attack by the Bush administration and powerful members of Congress. Just recently, Julie MacDonald, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife assistant secretary responsible for administering the act, resigned after it was revealed that she had been suppressing scientific research, altering reports and collaborating with industry groups working to water down the act. The Interior Department has also reportedly been rewriting regulations that seem geared more toward protecting the logging and development industries than America’s wildlife.
“The Bald Eagle’s recovery is proof that the ESA works. Imagine how successful the law can be if left unmolested by Bush administration appointees.” says Sean Cosgrove, endangered species specialist for the Sierra Club.
As residents of North Central Florida celebrate America’s Independence Day, the odds of spotting a Bald Eagle in this area are pretty good. There are 1,166 nesting pairs known to exist in Florida, and, at last count, 76 of them are located here in Alachua County.
Happy birthday, America. May Freedom, Spirit, Democracy and the rest of America’s resurrected Bald Eagle population fly forever free over this land of the free.