SAVING THE Bald Eagle

The bald eagle has been a major player in American conservation history. Chosen by Congress as the nation’s symbol in 1782, it was soon to become a casualty of the country’s social and technological transformation. The bird was subject to widespread extermination efforts by settlers, and even fed to hogs in Maine. When the story of its poisoning by DDT was popularized in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a nascent environmental movement rallied around it: the great raptor was one of the first species listed under the 1967 precursor to today’s Endangered Species Act.

The bald eagle’s comeback has been a strong one — a testament to the power of the Endangered Species Act. Leading up to the delisting of the eagle on August 8, 2007, the Center released a Web report detailing, state by state, the most comprehensive and current population trends of bald eagle breeding pairs. Our report generated hundreds of articles about the eagle in newspapers across the country.

The bald eagle has been managed under five recovery populations, one of which is the southwestern, or desert nesting, bald eagle — geographically, behaviorally, and biologically distinct from bald eagles elsewhere. There are only 39 breeding pairs in Arizona, nesting primarily along the Verde, Salt, and Gila rivers. While on the national level bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery, in the Southwest they still suffer from high mortality and low reproductive rates and depend on precious, rapidly disappearing riparian habitat. For these reasons, the Center has called for the desert nesting bald eagle to continue to be managed separately and remain on the endangered species list.

We're working to protect Arizona’s Verde River, one of the most endangered rivers in the nation and the best remaining habitat for Arizona eagles. And a Center lawsuit successfully prevented a lakeside condominium development on the shores of Big Bear Lake, California, which threatened bald eagle nests.