Bald eagles ruled naked

On October 2, 2010, in news, by admin

by Hugh Holub on Oct. 02, 2010, under environment water and energyland use,politics

A federal judge ruled that Arizona’s population of bald eagles was ruled not be to endangered. Thus they are naked from protection by the US Fish & Wildlife Service(USF&WS).

Not surprisingly the Tucson based Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the feds over the decision.

Here is a little context to work with:

There are all kinds of critters found in Arizona which are also found in other parts of the United States…and even Mexico in some specific cases.

At issue with the bald eagle fight was whether or not the population of bald eagles found in Arizona was sufficiently genetically distinct to be separately eligible for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The federal court said the evidence did not support any genetic distinction. In other words, a bald eagle in Alaska or Montana is the same species.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other similar groups like the Western Watersheds Project and  Wild Earth Gaurdians are famous for having a pretty clear agenda of trying to block any new uses of public lands (such as the Rosemont mine) , and also trying to run existing land users (such as ranchers) off public lands. CBD recently went after an  El Paso Natural Gas pipeline project. For example of the scope of activity see CBD’s press page.

Their main tools are the Endangered Species Act and truckloads of legal actions against federal agencies to try and force these agencies into submission to CBD’s and WWP’s agenda.

A common theme, speciallyof CBD’s claims, are the allegedly endangered species can only be protected by preserving Arizona’s riparian habitats, and that preseveration of habitat requires kicking ranchers off the range as well and preventing every other land and water use that may be  in conflict with the preservation of the natural habitat.

Far be it for anyone to point out that cows and eagles have cohabited these areas for several hundred years.

One of the devices used in this fight is to claim that a critter found in Arizona is a separate subspecies and thus entitled to federal protection. Thus Arizona’s eagles  were claimed to be different than Montana’s eagles.

The same argument has been made over the pygmy owl…these little owls are common in Mexico…but it was alleged that the Arizona population is different. Maybe they don’t speak Spanish?

The courts also ruled the pygmy owl in Arizona did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

There are a lot of critters found all over the place besides Arizona…and in many cases the Arizona portion of their habitat is on the edge of their main range.  Whether or not there is a population of pygmy owls or bald eagles in Arizona does not endanger the entire species.

But as a tool to challenge various land uses in Arizona like ranching, it makes great press to claim Arizona’s eagles or pygmy owls are threatened with extinction.

The eagle story from the Arizona Republic:.


The state’s eagle population rose on a wet-winter updraft this year, but the legal battle about their status continues.

The number of breeding adults hit a record 104 this year. The 52 nesting pairs established three new nest sites and successfully reared 44 young — nearly double their success rate in 2000.

Researchers trying to unravel some lingering mysteries about the life cycle of the desert eagles reported a potential windfall, when they rescued a young eagle and outfitted him with a radio collar that will help track the eagles through the most poorly understood portion of their life cycle.

However, environmental groups and several Arizona tribes, including the Tonto Apache, have continued to press their lawsuit attempting to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from taking the desert nesting bald eagles off the endangered species list. Nationally, bald eagle numbers have recovered enough to remove the species from the list, but several studies suggest the Arizona population remains vulnerable.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia on Sept. 14 heard the latest arguments on whether the desert eagles qualify for continued protection as a population that occupies a vital portion of the overall range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had sought to drop protection for the desert nesting birds.

She ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to redo its study. The federal agency redid its study and now has renewed its request to strip protection from the Arizona birds.

If dropped from the endangered species list, the critical habitat for the birds could lose legal protection. However, two other federal laws would still ban hunting or harassment of the eagles. The environmentalists and the tribes cite reports from federal biologists and computer models suggesting the population remains so small it faces a continuing threat of extinction.

The Tonto and San Carlos Apache Tribes joined in the lawsuit, arguing that the Arizona population has a deep cultural and religious significance to the tribe, which would therefore suffer great harm if the eagles disappeared from Arizona.

The judge once more took the case “under advisement,” which means she could release a ruling at any time.

This year’s figures on nesting success suggest the desert nesting eagles have continued a population boom, as they expand into new territories.

Just since 2000, the number of occupied nesting sites has increased from 38 to 52.

Overall, the desert nesting bald eagle population has increased some six-fold since the state established its Nest Watch program, which posts biologists and volunteers near about one-third of the nests to prevent people from disturbing the eagle families.

The Nest Watch program has boosted reproduction rates by about 10 percent. Advocates for the birds worry that the federal government might drop support for the program if the desert eagles lose their spot on the endangered species list..


Bald-eagle population in Arizona at new high

On September 28, 2010, in news, by admin

by Shaun McKinnon – Sept. 28, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Arizona’s bald eagles maintained recent population gains during the 2010 breeding season, but conservation groups say the birds’ success could falter if a judge strips them of their endangered-species status.

The number of breeding adult eagles grew to a record 104 this year, up from a previous high of 100, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reported Monday. Three new active breeding areas were found.

By the end of the breeding season, which typically starts in December and continues into mid-summer, 44 eaglets took their first flight from the nest, or fledged, a critical step toward their survival in the wild. That number is down slightly from 2009, but up significantly from 2000, when 23 birds fledged.

Biologists watch not only the number of birds that hatch and fledge, but also the number of locations where breeding pairs nest. The number of occupied breeding areas grew to 52 this year; there were 38 occupied areas in 2000.

“Identifying three new breeding areas in the state is a positive sign that our population of bald eagles continues to grow and do well,” said Kenneth Jacobson, the state wildlife agency’s bald-eagle-management coordinator.

Arizona’s desert-nesting bald eagles remained protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, even after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the eagle from the endangered list in 2007.

Conservation groups sued the government over its decision, arguing that the bald eagle, found almost exclusively in Arizona, was a distinct population segment that had not recovered to the same degree as eagles elsewhere in the United States.

A federal judge ordered the wildlife service to reconsider its findings, but the agency reaffirmed its decision earlier this year, concluding that the Arizona eagle is not important enough biologically to retain its protection.

The judge heard a final round of arguments on the case on Sept. 14 and could issue a final decision at any time.

If the judge dismisses the case and allows the delisting decision to stand, conservation groups say they will file a new lawsuit. Although other state and federal laws will protect the eagles, only the Endangered Species Act protects the birds’ nesting habitat.

“This is a population that’s been important, significant and critical to our wildlife enjoyment and our culture here,” said Robin Silver, who follows the issue for the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson-based advocacy group. “The new numbers don’t change the fact that this is a population that’s in trouble.”

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