Bald Eagle Off Endangered Species List -- But Is It Too Soon?

Bald eagle populations have rebounded all across the United States. After years of protection, bald eagles can now be found in all U.S. states except Hawaii, an rare example of conservation success.

In response to this success, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday officially ruled to remove the bird from the list of species protect by the Endangered Species Act (effective 30 days after official publication in the Federal Register). But some wonder if this move is too soon, or if it ignores the needs of certain populations.

Arizona, for example, has fewer than 50 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Arizona governor Janet Napolitano had asked Fish and Wildlife to provide an exception to its new ruling and keep her state's population protected under the Endangered Species Act, saying Arizona's native populations (which use eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes) were not adequately consulted. That request was denied, saying the region had "the appropriate number of eagles" and that Arizona's eagles did not meet the criteria to be protected as a distinct population segment.

The bald eagle will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, but some fear that its declassification as an endangered species removes protections for bald eagle habitats which the Endangered Species Act provided.

Unfortunately, with this ruling already in place, we'll have to wait and see how this pans out in the years to come.


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Issue 25

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