Saturday, January 28, 2017

Success Story - American Bald Eagles in Maine

I grew up in Maine. My family are an outdoorsy bunch - camping, fishing, hiking, boating - so I spent a lot of time enjoying the natural beauty of Maine. One thing that I never did see, growing up? A bald eagle, in the wild.

That's because, when I was growing up, bald eagles were nearly extinct. The pesticide DDT interfered with the success of the eggs. Their habitats were infringed and badly degraded. Their food sources were poisoned by pollution. Though the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 prohibited shooting them, there was still some illegal hunting, as eagles - pushed out of their preferred food sources - would sometimes take chickens or lambs.

In 1967, eagles south of the 40th parallel were protected, and in 1972, DDT was banned. Eagle populations did not begin to recover until after they received the full protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1978. It was listed as endangered in 42 states and  threatened in six others.

Today I live a quarter mile from the Kennebec River, and I see bald eagles almost every day. They glide over the river. They hassle osprey to drop fish
Photo by Greg Stephens
they've caught. They land on the sand bars and pick at their prize. I see them at Hatch Hill - the town dump - where they prey on the seagulls attracted by the trash.
Eagles are back. But they never would have come back if not for the ESA. This is the story for many species, and many more - Kennebec Salmon, for example - are still struggling.

Now Republican lawmakers want to roll back the Endangered Species Act. This came as something of a shock to me, because I don't know anyone who is not in favor of the act, which has been such an obvious success. In 1973 it passed almost unanimously.

But it's not 1973 anymore, and it seems like the Republican agenda has just become to roll back anything that liberals like. That's Republicans in Congress; as I said, every Republican I know personally favors the act. Anyone who hunts or fishes usually does.

If you think this is a horrifying idea, now would be an excellent time to call your Senators and Representatives and tell them so.

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