OLYMPIA -- State bald eagle habitat management plans remain in effect,
despite the federal government's recent announcement that the eagle may be removed
from the federal endangered species list.
"Washington has its own bald eagle protection law to protect habitat," said
Harriet Allen, endangered species manager for the Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife (WDFW). "There are hundreds of eagle management plans in effect
throughout Washington aimed at protecting nest, roost and perch sites. Those state
plans will remain in force but may be revised when the federal law is changed."
The process of taking the eagle off the federal endangered species list is
expected to take up to two years. Even after the eagle is reclassified the bird and its
nests would remain protected under other federal and state laws.
The American bald eagle population declined dramatically earlier this century
due to a number of factors, including the use of the pesticide DDT, which was banned
in this country in 1972. It has taken more than two decades for the birds to recover from
the effects of toxic contamination. There now are an estimated 5,000 eagle nesting
territories in the lower 48 states, up from 500 three decades ago, according to federal
statistics. There are approximately 600 nesting pairs of bald eagles in this state.
"Even though the numbers of bald eagles have increased, the rapid
development of shoreline habitat is a new threat," Allen pointed out. "If property owners
leave large conifer trees along our shorelines, we will continue to enjoy these birds for
generations to come."