Mar 022006
Authors: Mike Donovan

The bald eagle is close to being removed from the Endangered Species Act, and Fish and Wildlife Service officials are pointing to this as proof that the Act was a success.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) came out last month with voluntary guidelines to protect the bald eagle in conjunction with the removal of the bird from the Endangered and Threatened Species list.

The original proposal for removal of the bald eagle was in 1999 and seven years later, that dream might soon become a reality.

While it has taken longer than expected, Valerie Fellows, spokeswoman for the FWS, believes it will be worth the wait.

"The delisting of the bald eagle is a very positive step and the eagles will still be protected by other acts," Fellows said in a phone interview Thursday.

The other acts that Fellows is referring to are the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). According to FWS, both acts protect bald eagles by prohibiting killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs.

The bald eagle was originally listed as an endangered species in the lower 48 states in 1967 in a law that predated the Endangered Species Act. In 1995, the bald eagle moved from endangered to threatened in the majority of states. The bald eagle was never listed as endangered or threatened in Alaska and has never been found in Hawaii.

The biggest reason for the time gap between the proposal of the delisting and the go-ahead is the size of the project. Usually when an animal is removed from the Endangered Species Act, it is in a small area such as one specific state or forest. The bald eagle is being removed from the list in every one of the lower 48 states.

Fellows said when an animal is removed from the federal list, the state where the animal lives must submit a proposal of how they will keep protecting that animal. The FWS then works with the state to make sure the proposal is complete and adequate in protecting that animal. The trouble with the bald eagle delisting is that the FWS is working with 48 states with 48 different proposals and ideas.

Local bird of prey experts think it is a positive sign to have the bald eagle removed from the list.

Carin Avila (CQ)es , education coordinator of CSU's Rocky Mountain Raptor Program in Fort Collins, believes the recovery of the bald eagle is a success story.

"The birds were on the brink of destruction and they are now flourishing," Avila said. "It is definitely a wonderful thing."

The recovery of the bald eagle proves that the endangered species list works, said Tony Auciello, (CQ)es a sophomore natural resources management major.

"The endangered species is a vital part of ensuring the safety of America's wildlife," Auciello said.

One reason for the recovery of the bald eagles is certainly the Endangered Species Act, however, this is not the biggest reason for the recovery. In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the insecticide known as DDT.

DDT, which was first used during World War II, had devastated the bald eagle population as well other birds including the peregrine falcon.

According to Fellows, DDT was getting into lakes and infecting the fish population. When a female bald eagle ate an infected fish it would experience a major loss of calcium. When that bird laid an egg, the reduced calcium in the shell made it almost impossible for that egg not to break before hatching.

The ban of DDT was the single biggest reason for the recovery of the eagles, Fellows said.

"The Endangered Species Act provided a safety net, but banning was the most important thing that helped the eagles," Fellows said.

In 1963, there were 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles around the nation. With the help of the endangered species list and the banning of DDT, the number of bald eagle nesting pairs now reaches 7,066.

In Colorado, there are currently more than 60 pairs of bald eagles nesting all over the state, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Web site. The best place to see a bald eagle in Colorado is along the South Platte River in Northeastern Colorado or along the Yampa River on the Western slope.


Mike Donovan can be reached at


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