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Media Advisory, September 10, 2010

Contact: Dr. Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity, (602) 799-3275

Court Hearing Tuesday to Decide Fate of Desert Nesting Bald Eagle

PHOENIX, Ariz.— A federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest unfounded attempt to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the desert nesting bald eagle.

For three decades, the Fish and Wildlife Service has officially recognized that the Southwest’s desert nesting bald eagle is isolated, unique and important. No other bald-eagle population survives in an environment so hot and dry. The population has been important enough to the Service that a special recovery team has been in place since 1978 and tens of millions of dollars have been spent on the population’s recovery.

The Bush administration in 2006 tried to reverse decades of science and policy by removing Endangered Species Act protection for the eagle. U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia rejected that attempt in 2008, calling it t “arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to law.”

The judge said the Bush-era decision was based on agency officials being given “marching orders,” and officials who later acknowledged that “we’ve been given an answer now we need to find an analysis that works… Need to fit argument in as defensible a fashion as we can.”

The judge ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to reevaluate its decision while Endangered Species Act protection continued. But little has changed under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and his Fish and Wildlife Service: On Feb. 25, 2010, the agency tried to repeat the Bush administration’s action, reiterating the false claim that desert nesting bald eagles are “not important to the species as a whole.”

Judge Murguia will take up the case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society again Tuesday afternoon.

In 2010, there were only 48 active desert eagle breeding areas, 27 successful breeding attempts and 44 fledglings.

Habitat destruction and human harassment are the two greatest threats to the population. The Endangered Species Act mandates money and crucial mitigation measures to protect the eagle from further destruction of their river habitat, harassment by off-road vehicles and aircraft, and other threats

NestWatch guardians have rescued and returned to the wild nearly 10 percent of the population’s fledglings over the three decades.. But without Endangered Species Act protection funding, the NestWatch program will disappear.

“We can’t let Secretary Salazar simply toss out vital federal protections for this unique bird and put it on the road toward extinction. It wasn’t right when the Bush administration tried it and it isn’t right now,,” said Dr. Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The hearing will be held Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 2:00 p.m. in Courtroom 505, 401 West Washington Street, Phoenix, Ariz., before Judge Mary H Murguia.

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