Navajo Nation moves to protect bald eagles

It's been a year since the bald eagle was dropped from the Endangered Species List. But while our national symbol is doing quite well in 48 U.S. states, its recovery is less certain in Arizona, where fewer than 50 breeding pairs currently reside.

Conservation and Native American tribal groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which in March agreed to temporarily return the Arizona bald eagle population to the "threatened" species list. The groups now have until October 2009 to prove that the bird deserves to keep that protected status in the state.

But the Navajo Nation isn't waiting until 2009. Last week, they added the bald eagle to their own endangered species list (PDF), which contains several plants and animals that do not currently have federal protected status. (The Navajo Nation includes areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.)

The Associated Press reports:
Under the regulations, Navajo Fish and Wildlife officials would establish circular buffers around the nests and limit human activity during the breeding season to protect nesting eagles, their eggs and young. The types of permanent structures that could be built within those buffers also would be regulated.
The Navajo Nation also set aside 14,000 acres to protect the Mesa Verde Cactus. The cactus is listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but no critical habitat rules or conservation plans exist.