Major AEF Accomplishments: 1985 - 2011
- Private U.S. citizen Al Cecere established the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) as non-profit public charity (formerly named Save the Eagle Project and National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles) dedicated to fully restoring and protecting the Bald Eagle (formerly named Save the Eagle Project and National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles). Cecere acted as the organization's full-time volunteer President until 1990.
- From 1985 to present, the AEF has participated in hundreds of educational appearances coast to coast, reaching many millions of people at various schools, state parks and high-profile special events in over 40 states. The AEF has also appeared on national and regional TV and radio shows using trained non-releasable eagles and other birds of prey, including educational appearances on Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, CBS This Morning, Larry King Live, Late Night with David Letterman, Regis & Kelly, Maury Povich, Dateline NBC, Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures, Disney Channel, Country Music Television, Animal Planet, etc.
- From 1985 to present, the AEF raised over $11 million from private sector corporations, agencies, organizations & individuals (U.S. Mint coin program funding not included) and has used funds to support AEF operations and various state, federal and private Bald Eagle education and conservation programs.
- From 1987 to present, the AEF has held U.S. Fish
& Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency permits
to conduct public education programs using trained non-releasable birds
of prey, raptor rehabilitation/ release programs, and leg banding of
captive-hatched and rehabilitated birds of prey. The Federal government
currently entrusts the AEF with care of the largest collection of
non-releasable Bald Eagles in the world for public education and
propagation purposes. The AEF's overall captive bird collection
currently includes about 40 Bald Eagles, 5 Golden Eagles, and 35 other
birds of prey,
including hawks, owls, falcons, vultures and condors (all
- From 1987 to present, the AEF has been a member of
Animal Charities of America (and/or its affiliated Independent Charities
of America). Upon rigorous independent review, the AEF has been able to
certify, document, and demonstrate on an annual basis that it meets the
highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and
cost resourcefulness. These standards include those required by the U.S.
Government (Office of Personnel Management) for inclusion in the
Combined Federal Campaign, which is probably the most exclusive employee
fund drive in the world. Of the 1,000,000 charities operating in the
United States today, it is estimated that fewer than 50,000 (or 5
percent) meet or exceed these standards. Ninety-seven percent of the
AEF's 2008 revenue was used for program services, while only 3% was used
for fundraising and administration expenses.
- AEF obtained multi-year corporate sponsorship from The Dollywood Company and cooperated with them to design and develop the United States Eagle Center at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for conducting public environmental education, birds of prey rehabilitation and Bald Eagle breeding/release programs (on-park and off-park facilities valued at several million dollars). Dollywood's relationship with the AEF and its comitment to helping eagles has spanned 20 years and still continues.
- In cooperation with Dollywood, the AEF developed the "Wings of America" Theatre for presenting free-flight birds of prey shows on the Dollywood park featuring trained non-releasable eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures. Now in its 20th season, the bird show has been performed about 14,000 times and has likely educated about 3.5 million people about Bald Eagle and birds of prey protection concerns.
- In cooperation with Dollywood, the AEF developed the "Eagle Mountain Sanctuary" Bald Eagle aviary/exhibit, featuring the world's largest presentation of non-releasable Bald Eagles. The aviary has likely been viewed by over 19 million park visitors.
- AEF asked President Bill Clinton to proclaim June 20th as "American Eagle Day." The President responded by issuing a formal proclamation for 1995. Since then, the AEF has initiated and established "American Eagle Day" in cooperation with 28 Governors and the U.S. Congress.
- AEF Founder/President Al Cecere produced educational "Save The Eagle" song and music video featuring various country music stars which has aired before millions of viewers on Country Music Television, Animal Planet, Armed Forces Radio/TV and other TV/radio stations and networks (song lyrics & music written by James Rogers).
- From 1995 to present, the AEF's trained non-releasable Bald Eagle "Challenger" has performed free-flight educational demonstrations at over 288 major sporting and other special events (averaging over 20 per year). The majectic bird has flown at 5 MLB World Series baseball games, 3 NFL Pro-Bowl All-Star football games, 5 Fiesta Bowl college football games, 1 BCS National Championship college football game, 1 NCAA Men's Final Four Championship college basketball game, an AFL Championship pro football game, 1996 Olympics, Ground Breaking Ceremony for World War II Memorial, White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Pentagon and other high-profile public events/places. Also, this eagle has appeared at pre and post inauguration events for both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.
- AEF's www.eagles.org website was launched and has since reached many millions of viewers. During eagle breeding season, the "eagle-cam" featured on this website has a "live video feed" from an eagle nest at the AEF's Raptor Center located in Dollywood. Tens of thousands of viewers worldwide have enjoyed watching a pair of parent eagles incubating their eggs and caring for newly-hatched eaglets.
- AEF Founder/President Al Cecere and trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" joined President Clinton at White House media ceremony to pre-announce a proposal to "delist" Bald Eagle from Endangered Species Act protection during the following year (in 2000). The delisting was actually delayed until 2007 during the George W. Bush administration.
- AEF organized and produced three annual American Eagle Festivals in Pigeon Forge, TN to raise public awareness about eagle conservation concerns. Each festival featured a "Concert for America's Eagles" with performances by various entertainers, "Taste of the Smokies" food tasting event,"America Eagle Classic" golf tournament, "World of Wildlife Fine Art & Photography Show," and "Friends of Eagles Auction" (1999, 2000 & 2001).
- From 2000 to present, the AEF has released 101 captive-hatched and/or orphaned Bald Eaglets from its artificial nesting tower located on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. Many of these young birds were captive-hatched by non-releasable permanently disabled parent eagles at the AEF's Dollywood-based raptor facility. The AEF has participated in the release of hundreds of other Bald Eaglets in other locations in cooperation with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
- AEF Founder/President initiated and promoted Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act legislation in the U.S. Congress to raise public awareness about and funding for national Bald Eagle care and recovery programs. In 2004, the bill was passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush. It resulted in nearly $7.8 million being raised for future eagle restoration and protection programs - from the sale of U.S. Mint designed and marketed gold, silver and clad coins during 2008. Funding generated from coin sales helped establish a permanent multi-million dollar endowment fund (American Eagle Fund) managed by the AEF to support its operations and competitive grants for nationwide Bald Eagle projects.
- In cooperation with Dollywood, the AEF developed and constructed a "Wings of America" show bird building (to house & exhibit the AEF's non-releasable show birds) - located adjacent to AEF's on-site "Wings of America Theater" and "Eagle Mountain Sanctuary" Bald Eagle aviary on the Dollywood park.
- On June 28 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., AEF Founder/President Al Cecere and trained non-releasable Bald Eagle "Challenger" participated with U.S. Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials to announce "delisting" of Bald Eagle from Endangered Species Act protection. "Challenger" was released from the top steps of the memorial for a free-flight demonstration to celebrate the occasion while singing policeman Daniel Rodriguez sang the U.S.A.'s National Anthem.
- The AEF's Bald Eagle Info Channel on YouTube (www.youtube.com/baldeagleinfo) was launched and has reached many millions of viewers over the years.
- Al Cecere and trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" partipated in President-Elect Barack Obama's star-studded "We Are One" concert celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and other inaugural activities.
- Dollywood constructed new raptor housing/exhibit building adjacent to AEF's "Wings of America Theater" located on the Dollywood park.
- The US Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution designating June 20th, 2009 as American Eagle Day.
- Al Cecere and AEF staff, along with Bald Eagles "Mr. Lincoln" and "Challenger" joined Dolly Parton at an event on the Dollywood park to celebrate the 25th Anniversaries of both Dollywood and the AEF.
- The American Eagle Foundation began their 20th season of "Wings of America" birds of prey show at Dollywood.
- The US Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution designating June 20th, 2010 as American Eagle Day.
- AEF flew Challenger in January 2011 at the BCS College Football 2010 Championship at Glendale, AZ
- The AEF established a presence on UStream, expanding our message to hundreds of thousands of people from around the world as they watched the 24/7 live-streaming video of 2 non-releasable Bald Eagles lay eggs and successfully raise all 3 of the eaglets, which were then released into the wild.
- The US Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution designating June 20th, 2011 as American Eagle Day.
- AEF approved grants totaling $99,400 for 8 nationwide Bald Eagle projects beginning in 2012.
Article written April 2010; updated October 2012