OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has set a 30-day public review period beginning Oct. 22 for the final status report and listing recommendation to change the protective status of bald eagles in Washington state.
Bald eagle numbers have recovered throughout the United States, including Washington state, to the point that federal fish and wildlife officials are considering a proposal to remove the bird from the Endangered Species Act's list of endangered species.
WDFW's proposal to reclassify the bald eagle from "threatened" to "sensitive" status on the state's "species of concern list" would not occur until such an action is made at the federal level. Eagles would still be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other laws.
"Eagle populations are very strong in Washington state, and our agency will continue its management and monitoring work to ensure bald eagle numbers remain healthy," said Harriet Allen, manager of WDFW's Endangered Species Section. "This proposal will not affect the recovery process."
While the ban on harmful pesticides, such as DDT, is thought to be a key factor in the bird's recovery, Allen also credits WDFW's bald eagle habitat protection rules, which have been in place since the mid-1980s. The rules, which would not be affected by a reclassification, require property owners to develop a management plan for any land-use changes occurring adjacent eagle nesting sites. The agency has approved about 1,200 such plans since the rule was put in place.
The State Fish and Wildlife Commission, at its Dec. 7-8 meeting, is expected to consider final proposed revisions to bald eagle protection rules, and a revision to WDFW's listing procedures that would eliminate the requirement for two public meetings during the listing process. A proposed new policy would require the agency to conduct public meetings where there is an expressed interest.
Proposed revisions to the bald eagle habitat protection rule include a new "sensitive" status category, which was created after the bald eagle habitat rule was developed.
The documents will be available beginning Oct. 22 at public libraries, through WDFW regional offices, WDFW's Olympia headquarters, and on the agency's website. Requests for copies can also be made via e-mail, at email@example.com. Comments must be received by Nov. 22, and can be mailed to: Endangered Species Section Manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091.
Click here to download the Final Bald Eagle Status Report, related WACs and other supporting documents.