Friday, June 29, 2007

The Bald Eagle: Back from the Brink

The Department of the Interior, who is in charge of these things, removed the Bald Eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species yesterday. That's fantastic news, and for once I'm not being being sarcastic. I have always felt it was a bit ridiculous that one of our national symbols was close to being exterminated. If nothing else it shows that at least one of our conservation efforts in this country has actually worked.

That said, I hope the removal of the most prominent member on that list will not spell doom for other species. Bob Irvin, senior vice president for conservation programs with the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, is worried about a recent Supreme Court ruling which allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to
transfer permitting authority to state agencies without first considering the welfare of endangered species. The ruling specifically affects permits issued under the Clean Water Act. "The full effect of this decision remains to be seen, but we are very concerned," said Irvin of Defenders of Wildlife, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. The Clean Water Act does not require such consultations before the EPA can transfer authority. Irvin is concerned the Bush Administration will try to use the ruling to argue that other federal laws also trump the Endangered Species Act.
His concern is probably not completely unwarranted. While this ruling really has nothing to do with the bald eagle's status, I think the ability to lobby for endangered species takes a big hit when the poster child for the campaign has graduated off the list. We'll see, hopefully we're both wrong.

My incessant curiosity led me to look up what other animals are on the list. A few of the notables:
  • Grizzly Bears
  • Both the American Crocodile and Alligator
  • 9 species of Bats
  • California Condors, the largest land bird found in North America and the world's rarest bird of prey.
  • Hawaii Creepers. Small birds. Cool Name.
  • Jaguars
  • 4 species of Foxes
  • Kangaroo Rats (not Kangaroos)
  • 10 species of Mice
  • Florida Panthers
  • Prairie Dogs
  • Pumas, or Cougars and Mountain Lions
  • 12 species of Salamanders
  • 17 species of Salmon
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sea Lions
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Manatees
  • The Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, and Killer Whale
I could go on but you get the point. While the success with Bald Eagles is commendable, I hope we don't lose sight of the rest of the animal kingdom. I didn't even mention the Invertabrates and Plants. I'm not a huge conservationist or environmentalist, but wiping out animals and plants is something I think we should avoid when we can. Sure the earth will survive, but I'd rather we not accelerate our efforts to make it resemble the moon.

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