Seven years after the Clinton administration declared that our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, was no longer endangered, the federal government is finally getting around to removing endangered species protections for the majestic raptor. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its bald eagle delisting proposal for public review. Comments on the long-awaited proposal (www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/baldeagle.htm) are welcome via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org through May 17.
As reported previously in E Magazine (emagazine.com/view/?2110&src), environmentalists have mixed feelings about removing the eagle from the endangered species list. On the one hand, the recovery of America’s eagles is a success story thanks to the visionary Endangered Species Act. On the other hand, some scientists say there is no data to support that eagle populations have rebounded to satisfactory levels yet, rendering delisting premature and potentially dangerous. Fish and Wildlife Service officials contend, however, that other federal laws—not to mention state laws in areas where eagles congregate—protect the birds from hunting, poaching and disturbance, rendering federal species protection redundant anyway.
The timing of the eagle delisting highlights efforts in Congress to gut the very law that made the bird’s recovery possible, the Endangered Species Act. The landmark 1973 law has been under fire in Congress in recent months as an unnecessarily burdensome regulation limiting what many conservatives consider to be sacrosanct private property rights. Analysts expect the formal eagle delisting to take about a year now that the wheels are officially in motion. Only time and the eagles’ success will tell whether we are making the right decision.