This is fantastic news for all Americans. The bald eagle fell to a low 417 breeding pairs in the US in 1967, now there are approximately 10,000 pairs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled an announcement about the eagle's status for this morning at the Jefferson Memorial. No details were available, but environmental advocates said the intent was clear: For months, wildlife service officials have been making legal preparations for taking bald eagles off the protected list. If the species is removed, it will provide a legal postscript to a rebound that is obvious to bird-watchers nationwide. [...]
"It's really one of the greatest conservation success stories in U.S. history," said Tony Iallonardo, a spokesman for the National Audubon Society.
Although the number of bald eagles has soared in most states -- up to 1,166 nesting pairs in Florida -- the raptors remain relatively scarce in desert terrain, according to counts tabulated by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.
California's eagle population has experienced a moderate rise, reaching 200 pairs in 2005, up from 18 pairs in 1973. In the Bay Area, one mating pair has been spotted at Del Valle Reservoir south of Livermore.
But in Arizona, which hosts the only winter nesting bald eagle population in North America, there were only 43 occupied nests in 2006. New Mexico had only two pairs, Nevada, five, and Utah, 11, the group's study found.
Removing the bird from the roll of threatened species, a process referred to as delisting, isn't likely to mean a new hunting season for bald eagles. Instead, the birds will probably enjoy most of the protections they do now under policies the Fish and Wildlife Service recently outlined. Those include federal prohibitions on killing or wounding them and disturbing their nests.
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