Monday, January 01, 2007 Plain Dealer
Here's some good news for the New Year: Within a few weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will remove the bald eagle from the endangered species list. The formal delisting not only marks the triumphant resurgence of America's national symbol, it also reminds us that with good science and good stewardship, mankind can undo at least some of the damage it has inflicted on nature.
At the great bird's nadir in 1963, the federal government could count only 417 nesting pairs of eagles. There are now more than 7,000 pairs, in all but two states. It wasn't hunters who drove eagles so near extinction; that had long been outlawed. It was the pesticide DDT, which got into the food chain and weakened their eggs. Banning it and protecting habitats reversed the decline.
But let's not feel too warm and fuzzy. Just as the eagles come off, federal officials may be adding polar bears to the endangered list. Scientists fear that the fertility rate of the bears and the survival rate of their cubs are falling because rising temperatures in the Arctic are reducing the sea ice where they hunt for food.
Most climate specialists believe the Earth is warming because of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and vehicles. Publicly, the Bush administration has refused to accept that premise. Yet, if it lists the polar bears as endangered, there could be legal pressures to take action against the man-made factors that diminish their habitat.
Americans love polar bears - that's why Coca-Cola uses them to sell pop. Perhaps their plight will finally force the United States to join the global dialogue on climate change. If so, there's more good news for the New Year.
Being a avid duck hunter, I have had the privledge of watching American Bald Eagles several times when hunting at Magee Marsh or Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area for hours on end. Seeing an eagle swoop in to take a fish leaves you speechless!
Magee Marsh and Mosquito Creek are just two of the areas in Ohio where eagles nest are abundant. Funny thing though, the birders actually do more to disturb the nests and eagles than the hunters. Being predators and known to take a duck or two, hunters stay away from eagles nests. Birders in their quest to get good pictures, routinely disturb the nests.
Anyway congrats to ODNR for saving a truly majestic bird!