The Bald Eagle is Back in the Black

The American Bald Eagle

Photo credit: Jim Frazier

The American bald eagle is back after a four-decade fight for survival. The government has just declared that the national symbol no longer requires the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

"Today I am proud to announce the eagle has returned," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proclaimed at a ceremony near the Jefferson Memorial on Thursday.

The bird had been reclassified in 1995 from endangered to threatened; the Interior Department made the recovery official today by striking off the eagle from the list of threatened species under the species-protection law.Nearly 10,000 bald eagles now soar the skies above the contiguous 48 states, compared with a documented 417 in 1963, when the bird was on the brink of extinction everywhere except in Alaska and Canada.

"After years of careful study, public comment and planning, the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are confident in the future security of the American bald eagle," said Kempthorne.

He promised that "from this point forward we will work to ensure that the eagle never again needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act."

The eagle's decline came during years in which the bird was often caught in the crosshairs of hunters. Later, it became a victim of the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1972, in part because of testimony by Silent Spring author Rachel Carson.

In case hunters get any ideas, the eagle will still be protected by state statutes and a federal law passed by Congress in 1940 making it illegal to kill a bald eagle. :: The Los Angeles Times

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