Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

Monitoring needed to assure changes don’t threaten eagles

February 22, 2007

A stroll along the Kansas River on a cold winter day will bring an observer a look at one of our more successful wildlife conservation stories. On such days, it is hard not to spot a bald eagle fishing the river or watching the noisy water fowl there looking for their own meal.

That would not have been the case a few decades back. Bald eagle numbers in the lower 48 states were reduced to fewer than 500 in the early 1960s after being hunted as predators of domestic birds and livestock, losing much of their forested habitat and from the irresponsible use of DDT.

Helping turn the situation around was the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the bird's 1967 classification as an endangered species. It is now estimated that 75,000 bald eagles nest in the lower 48 states.

With that success, earlier this month the bald eagle was taken off the federal endangered species list. Despite that, bald eagles still have protection from several federal statutes. What worries some advocates is that some of those provisions are subject to interpretation. Of particular concern are those provisions protecting nesting sites.

Thankfully, there has been a growing appreciation of the environmental benefits of riparian areas near streams and rivers. These buffers not only help prevent soil erosion into waterways but provide natural nesting sites for eagles.

But bald eagle populations should certainly be monitored closely with the change and Congress quick to act if the remarkable recovery of the past four decades show signs of reversing.

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