The American Bald Eagle, proud symbol of the United States, could have disappeared forever.
It may owe its survival to Rachel Carson, biologist and writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By the time of Carson’s 100th birthday on May 27, 2007, the lower 48 states had reached a high of 9,789 nesting pairs. That’s up from a low of 417 nesting pairs the year after Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, was published. It’s also the largest total mof nesting pairs in the contiguous United States since World War II.
The low 1963 total is generally attributed to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT used for mosquito control and against agricultural pests. As revealed in Carson’s book, DDT entered waterways through farm field runoff, where was absorbed by plants and animals that fish ate, and the eagles ate the fish. DDT prevents calcium from forming so that eagles produce weak eggshells that crack when an adult tries to incubate them.
The stir began with publication of Silent Spring, based on Caron’s years of research, culminating in a federal ban on DDT in 1972.
Today, every one of the lower 48 states has breeding pairs of bald eagles.
Minnesota claims more than any other of the lower 48 states. According to information provided by the states, there were 1,312 breeding pairs of bald eagles In Minnesota in 2004 or later. Florida was second with 1,133 pairs, then Wisconsin, 1,065.
Every one of the lower 48 has bald eagles. Vermont, the only one not to have eagles, joined the club when its first baby eagles were born in 2006. Even the District of Columbia has a pair of breeding eagles.
The country is seeing it’s the largest number of bald eagle breeding pairs since World War II.
So successful has the effort been to save the American Bald Eagle that in July 1999 the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting them once the eagle’s protection afterward is assured. Following the public comment period, action was due this February, but as the result of an extension, the new date for delisting is June 29th.
Actually, once delisted, the American Bald Eagle remains protected under the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, The act prohibits killing a bald eagle with penalties of $100,000 for an individual, $200,000 for an organization, or one year in prison, or both fine and prison for a first offense. Penalties increase after that, with a $250,000 fine for an individual, $500,000 for an organization for a second offense. The act also provides for rewards for information leading to arrest and conviction of offenders.