Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eagle Decision Delayed

The deadline for removing bald eagles from the endangered species list has been extended to June 29. A court allowed the Interior Department the extra time to decide what protections should remain in place.

But even before the widespread use of pesticides in the 1940s and 1950s caused the drop in the population, the eagle had been a target for people coveting its feathers, so Congress passed a law preventing the “taking” of any eagle. This word was broadly defined to include everything from hunting the bird to simply disturbing it.

Now, the department has proposed regulatory language narrowing that definition and making it harder to prove that human actions disturbed the bird. Under the new language, landowners and developers could cut down trees, build and engage in other activities in the vicinity of the bird and its nest as long as eagles were not killed or injured and did not abandon their nests.

Wildlife biologists within the department have proposed an alternate definition of "taking" that would include harassment short of injury or nest abandonment.