Today, the Eagle Soars

NWF   |   June 28, 2007

Today marks an important moment in our nation’s conservation history and it’s one that conservationists everywhere will look back on with pride – on June 28, 2007, we officially removed the bald eagle from the nation’s list of threatened or endangered species.

Our senior science advisor Doug Inkley said it best in an interview with Reuters the other day: "This is a man-on-the-moon moment for wildlife."

We nearly lost the bald eagle – our nation’s symbol, for Pete’s sake – to DDT and major habitat loss that pushed it to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states 40 years ago. But thanks to a ban on this nasty chemical, the Endangered Species Act – a law to protect wildlife from extinction, and the countless numbers of dedicated conservationists who worked tirelessly over the last four decades to see that the eagle recovered, the eagle has been saved. Rachel Carson’s early leadership proves the point that one person with vision and determination can still make a difference.

From just 417 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states in the late 1960s to more than 9,000 today, we’ve proven that the Endangered Species Act works and that protecting wildlife is as American an endeavor as there ever was.

Jim Lyon, our senior vice president for conservation, represented NWF at the announcement this morning with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne at the Jefferson Memorial. President Jefferson, a passionate conservationist, would be proud to know that America had the good sense to protect the nation’s symbol and scores of other wildlife species from extinction.

While we need to celebrate this victory for wildlife, I can’t ignore the larger threat that is looming: global warming. DDT pales in comparison with the threat that global warming poses to wildlife and people everywhere. If we don’t tackle it head-on and immediately, the hard-fought conservation efforts of the last century could very well be lost by a rapidly warming climate that will become the leading cause of species extinction.

What does this tell me? That the fight is only just beginning. But it’s good to stop for a moment and appreciate the good news and hard fought success of the bald eagle that shows us what we’re made of. If we can bring the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction, we can tackle any threat to wildlife that comes our way.

Published: June 28, 2007