Bald Eagle & American Eagle Foundation
Historical Background Timeline
- Before European settlers first sailed to America's shores, Bald Eagles may have numbered 500,000. They existed along the Atlantic from Labrador to the tip of south Florida, and along the Pacific from Baja California to Alaska. They inhabited every large river and concentration of lakes within North America. They nested in forty-five of the lower forty-eight states. One researcher estimated an eagle nest for every mile of shore along Chesapeake Bay. They congregated on the lower Hudson, and were extremely abundant along the coast of Maine.
1782 (Founding of USA)
- Being unique to North America, the Bald Eagle was selected as the national emblem of the United States by the Founding Fathers at the Second Continental Congress.
- When the U.S.A. adopted the Bald Eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles.
- The Bald Eagle was first used as the central image in the Great Seal of the United States and on logos of all branches of the federal government.
- Noting that the species was "threatened with extinction," Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibited killing, selling, or possessing the species. A 1962 amendment added the Golden Eagle, and the law became the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This law provides strict protection for the birds (feathers, eggshells & body parts) and their nesting trees, but does not provide protection for habitat/territories surrounding nest trees.
- With only 487 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles remaining in the lower 48 states, the species was in danger of extinction. Loss of habitat, shooting, and DDT poisoning contributed to the near demise of the U.S.A.'s national symbol.
- The Secretary of Interior listed Bald Eagles south of the 40th parallel under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.
- As the dangers of DDT became known, in large part due to the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, the Environmental Protection Agency took the historic and, at the time, controversial step of banning the use of DDT in the United States, and it was the first step on the road to recovery for the Bald Eagle.
- Congress passes Endangered Species Act (ESA), which provides strict protection for Bald Eagles (feathers, eggshells & body parts) and their nest trees, as well as the habitat/territories surrounding nests. Federal government classifies Bald Eagle as an "Endangered Species" nationally.
- Following enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Service listed the Bald Eagle as endangered throughout the lower 48 states, except in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin where it was designated as threatened.
- Robert ("Bob") M. Hatcher becomes Non-game & Endangered Species Coordinator for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (T.W.R.A.) and begins recovery of rare aquatic and terrestrial species, and will become the T.W.R.A.'s primary leader of Bald Eagle recovery efforts in the State of Tennessee.
- Tennessee's first Bald Eagle hacking/release programs are started and sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority (T.V.A.) at Land Between the Lakes and by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (T.W.R.A) at Reelfoot Lake, respectively. Bob Hatcher, Non-game & Endangered Species Coordinator for T.W.R.A. and Don Hammer with the T.V.A. lead/guide the start-up of these two Bald Eagle hacking programs. Hatcher will go on to help establish and coordinate Bald Eagle hacking/release efforts at five more Tennessee locations. Over 300 Bald Eaglets will be released in Tennessee from 1980-2010.
- Only 1 active bald eagle nest in Tennessee and about 1,600 active nests in lower 48 states.
- With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Motion Picture Production, Al Cecere does free-lance entertainment production work in Nashville, TN. (TV shows, concerts, commercials & movies). Has no training or experience with eagles, marketing or charitable fundraising.
- Al Cecere sees a dramatic (and life changing) Associated Press photo in the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, TN, which depicts at least 2 dozen Bald Eagles lying side by side on the ground that had been shot by poachers in the Dakotas. The photo has a powerful emotional impact on Cecere and he becomes acutely concerned.
- Al Cecere calls the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Non-game & Endangered Species Coordinator Bob Hatcher after seeing a dramatic Associated Press photo in the Tennessean newspaper. Hatcher informs Cecere that Bald Eagles are an "endangered species" in the lower 48 states and that state and federal eagle recovery and protection programs need more money to help bring back the Bald Eagle from the brink of extinction. Cecere indicates to Hatcher that he'd like to volunteer to help and get country music entertainers involved in helping to publicize and support the State eagle recovery and protection programs.
- As a volunteer, Al Cecere begins to work and cooperate closely with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and its Non-game & Endangered Species Coordinator Bob Hatcher. Cecere devotes more volunteer time than most full-time employees (1983-1989). Cecere begins to participate in the release of Bald Eaglets at Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee. Bob Hatcher becomes Cecere's primary mentor, advisor and advocate, and they will become life-long partners relative to their mutual eagle recovery/protection work.
- Al Cecere creates national "Save the Eagle" Campaign in June/July and begins to work cooperatively with various private, state and federal agencies/organizations to help raise awareness about the plight of Bald Eagles and raises funding for eagle care and recovery programs. (1983, 1984 & 1985). Cecere operates the campaign largely from his kitchen table and phone.
- Al Cecere begins to contact various country music entertainers, inviting them to name Bald Eaglets being released into the wilds of Tennessee to help raise regional and national public awareness about eagles and their plight. Numerous national entertainment stars participate in the program over a period of several years, including Dolly Parton, Gene Autry, Lee Greenwood, Keith Whitley, Neil Young, Clint Black, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Roy Acuff, Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson, Buck Owens, and others (1983 to 2009).
- Al Cecere begins writing letters to numerous U.S.-based corporations requesting their support to help fund Tennessee eagle care and recovery programs (1983, 1984 & 1985).
- Al Cecere meets Entertainer/songwriter James Rogers through exposure to a State of Tennessee Bicentennial Song he wrote called "Fly Eagle Fly." Rogers, a performer at the Dollywood family entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, responds to a Tennessean news article about Cecere's early eagle project efforts.
- James Rogers is asked by Cecere to name a Bald Eaglet that will be released at the Land Between The Lakes eagle hacking project, and Rogers names his eagle "Freedom." Cecere and Rogers also travel to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee to meet and visit Bald Eagle hacking/release project being conducted there by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
- In response to his letter, the Miller Brewing Company calls Al Cecere and indicates their desire to help his "Save The Eagle" education, restoration and protection program called Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.). Al arranges meeting with key Miller marketing managers/reps at a Nashville, Tennessee office location (and assembles a team of attorneys and state/private wildlife officials to attend that meeting). Miller proposes national "Save America's Eagles" point-of-sale promotion from 1985 through 1987 to help raise public awareness for eagle cause and donations of nearly $400,000 to benefit private, state and federal eagle projects supported by S.T.E.P. (1985, 1986 & 1987).
- Al Cecere establishes Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.) as non-profit public charity to raise public awareness and funds for eagle and birds of prey conservation programs (organization changes name to National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles in 1988 and then to American Eagle Foundation in 2000).
- The first major decline of the Bald Eagle species probably began in the mid to late 1800s, coinciding with the decline of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other prey.
- There is no single cause for the decline in the Bald Eagle population. When Europeans first arrived on this continent, the majestic birds were fairly common. As the human population grew, the eagle population declined. The food supplies for eagles decreased, because the people hunted and fished over a broad area. Essentially, eagles and humans competed for the same food, and humans, with weapons at their disposal, had the advantage. As the human population expanded westward, the natural habitat of the eagles was destroyed, leaving them fewer places to nest and hunt, which caused the population of bald eagles to decline sharply by the late 1800s.
- Miller Brewing Company launches its national "Save America's Eagles point-of-sale promotion in cooperation with Al Cecere's Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.) that will continue through the end of 2007.
- Numerous individuals, corporations, and wildlife agencies/organizations begin to lend financial and political support to the Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.) and its national Bald Eagle recovery and protection cause.
- The "Save The Eagle" campaign acquires its first non-releasable eagle, named "Osceola" from the Memphis Zoo with assistance of TWRA Non-game & Endangered Species Coordinator Bob Hatcher. Eagle cared for by Cumberland Wildlife Foundation of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
- Al Cecere and his wildlife associates from Cumberland Wildlife Foundation (John Stokes and Kevin Schutte) begin traveling coast to coast with various trained non-releasable eagles and birds of prey to perform educational programs at schools, special events, and country music record label offices (eagle "Osceola", red-tailed hawk "Satch", great-horned owl "Owl-X" and black vulture "Buzz").
- With assistance of Burson-Marsteller public relations firm, Miller Brewing Company funds and coordinates Cecere's first coast to coast "Save The Eagle" educational tour with Bald Eagle "Lady Independence". Cecere visits TV stations/talk shows, newspaper offices and events in numerous states from Boston to Los Angeles.
- Johnny Cash records Joe Carter's song, "Through the Eyes of an Eagle", to benefit the Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.)
- Al Cecere begins developing and producing numerous TV and radio eagle conservation public service announcements featuring 40 or more high-profile country music stars (1985-2003), including John Anderson, Charlie Daniels, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, William Lee Golden, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Shania Twain, Marty Stuart, and others.
- Money raised through Miller Brewing Company "Save America's Eagles" point-of-sale" promotion for S.T.E.P. program is distributed to a number of private, state and federal eagle care and recovery projects nationally. A $50,000 grant is give to the newly established National Fish & Wildlife Foundation in Washington, D.C. (a foundation closely associated with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). Senator Howard Baker becomes involved as Honorary Chairman of eagle campaign.
- Al Cecere honored with a special plaque by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Executive Director Gary Myers at a TWRA Commission meeting.
- Al Cecere and his N.F.P.A.E. organization undertake mission to conduct national "Protect America's Eagles" Campaign until U.S.A.'s national bird is fully restored and adequately protected. Companies like Exxon, Citgo, Chevron, Goodyear, Dollywood, Eagle Snacks, R.J. Reynolds, and various major league baseball and football teams will support the efforts of Cecere and his Foundation in years thereafter.
- Al Cecere continues to coordinate and participate in various educational appearances in Tennessee and elsewhere using trained non-releasable eagles and birds of prey, which will eventually reach many millions of people in over 40 states. Cecere's educational efforts are conducted at various high-profile special events and on TV and radio shows across the United States (1987-2010).
- Cecere participates in his second major interstate public education tour during the 200th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution from George Washington's Mt. Vernon home to Federal Hall in New York City with trained non-releasable Bald Eagle "Osceola."
- Save The Eagle Project (S.T.E.P.) non-profit organization officially changes name to National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles (N.F.P.A. E.). Same Delaware corporation continues - with name change only.
- Al Cecere and National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles (N.F.P.A.E.) agree to take over operation of financially strained and nearly defunct Cumberland Wildlife Foundation, along with the care of about 20 hungry non-releasable Bald Eagles and numerous other birds of prey.
- Al Cecere spends many hours standing in front of various Nashville area Wal-Mart stores during cold winter months to raise money to help keep this newly inherited bird collection fed, while he plans for future development of a new raptor center.
- Cecere dissolves the Cumberland Wildlife Foundation and transfers limited CWF assets and bird permits over to his non-profit Foundation.
- Al Cecere and his non-profit Foundation begin participating in the breeding, rehabilitation and release of numerous Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and other birds of prey (1988-2010).
- Al Cecere has a vision to build a national eagle center and exhibit at Dollywood (a place he had never visited), as an immediate answer to find home for numerous eagles and birds of prey he had inherited from CWF. Cecere draws up preliminary plans for a public education, raptor rehabilitation and eagle breeding/release center from his kitchen table to present to Dollywood.
- Al Cecere calls entertainer/songwriter James Rogers to share his vision for an eagle center at Dollywood and to ask for his help in setting up a meeting with Dollywood executives. Rogers introduces Al Cecere to Ken Bell, Executive VP of The Dollywood Company and helps Cecere arrange his first meeting with Dollywood.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation join forces with Dolly Parton's Dollywood entertainment park to establish a new Bald Eagle and birds of prey center in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains (Pigeon Forge, TN). A 25-year contract is signed and construction begins, and Dollywood will eventually end up donating millions of dollars to help the AEF with its non-profit operations and birds of prey education and care programs.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation's Dollywood sponsor work closely together to coordinate design and development of a $2 million United States Eagle Center at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN to conduct public conservation education, birds of prey rehabilitation, and Bald Eagle breeding/release programs (1990-2009).
- Al Cecere's Foundation honored by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for Outstanding Contributions to Eagle Restoration in Tennessee.
- Grand opening of the United States Eagle Center at Dolly Parton's Dollywood entertainment park in April (Pigeon Forge, TN). AEF Founder/President Al Cecere is joined by Dolly Parton and Bob Hope, as well as various U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials, to dedicate "Eagle Mountain Sanctuary" Bald Eagle aviary/exhibit and "Wings Of America" birds of prey show theatre.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation staff organize and develop the "Wings of America" birds of prey show at Dollywood, featuring trained eagles, hawks, owls, falcons and vultures. It will be performed well over 14,000 times and will educate as many as 3.5 million Dollywood guests about Bald Eagle and birds of prey protection concerns (by end of 2009). "Eagle Mountain Sanctuary", the world's largest presentation of non-releasable Bald Eagles, will be viewed by at least 19 million people by end of 2009.
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency entrusts Al Cecere and his Foundation with the care of the world's largest collection of non-releasable Bald Eagles for public education and propagation purposes.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation initiate and develop "Earth Day For Eagles" educational program and newsletter that will reach over 85,000 elementary schools coast to coast annually for several consecutive years (1991-2003). School children nationally will participate to write to their respective governors asking them to help establish "American Eagle Day", and will raise thousands of dollars to adopt dozens of "non-releasable" permanently disabled Bald Eagles, including the Bald Eagles "Challenger" and "Osceola."
- The Dollywood Company assists Al Cecere and his Foundation to construct a Bald Eagle hack/release tower (located on Art Swann's property) on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee.
- During the next 18-year period, Cecere and his Foundation (in cooperation with the T.W.R.A. and U.S.F.W.S.) will manage this Douglas Lake hack tower and release 101 captive-bred and orphaned Bald Eaglets into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Many of the eaglets that will be released at this hack site will be hatched at the Foundation's Dollywood-based eagle breeding facility. The first eaglet hatched at the Foundation's Dollywood-based birds of prey center will be named "Star" by Dolly Parton.
- In addition to the Douglas Lake Bald Eagle hacking/releases project, Al Cecere and his Foundation will also continue to participate in and/or support the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's various other hacking programs that will release at least 200 other eaglets throughout the State from 1982 to 2009, including at Lake Chickamauga near Chattanooga and Bell's Bend near Nashville.
- Al Cecere's Foundation honored with the Public Relations Society of America Award.
- In July, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states had recovered to the point where those populations previously considered "endangered" were now considered "threatened".
- Al Cecere asks President Bill Clinton to proclaim June 20th as "American Eagle Day". He responds by issuing a formal proclamation for that year. Tennessee Governor Donald Sundquist previously did the same in 1995(???). As of April 2010, 28 governors and the U.S. Congress have signed "American Eagle Day" proclamations and resolutions in subsequent years at Cecere's request.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation joins forces with numerous country music stars to create additional "Protect America's Eagles" public service announcements (Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Shania Twain, Marty Stuart, and others).
- Al Cecere organizes and produces a "Save The Eagle" theme song music video for TV/radio broadcast on Country Music Television, the Nashville Network, Animal Planet, Armed Forces TN/Radio Network and other TV/radio network/shows (performed by James Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Deansa Carter, and others). The song was written by entertainer/songwriter James Rogers at Cecere's request.
- Al Cecere approaches the Nashville Network about producing a special edition of their Nashville Now TV show dedicated to the eagle protection cause. Crook & Chase host the show and Gary Morris, Little Jimmy Dickens and other stars perform. Al Cecere appears with the Bald Eagle "Challenger"
- Al Cecere and his Foundation staff begin presenting educational free-flight demonstrations with its trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" during the James Rogers show at the Music Mansion Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They also free-fly the eagle at the Bass Masters Classic in Greensboro, N.C. These are the first indoor venues where this eagle performs an educational free-flight demonstration.
- Al Cecere joins forces with numerous country music stars to create additional "Protect America's Eagles" public service announcements (Clint Black, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Shania Twain, Marty Stewart, and others), and a "Save The Eagle" theme song music video for TV/radio broadcast (James Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Deana Carter, and others).
- Al Cecere honored with Modern Woodman of America Certificate of Recognition for dedicated community service (Nov.)
- Al Cecere and his Foundation staff free-fly the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Teddy Pendegrass. This is the first outdoor stadium event at which this eagle performs an educational free-flight demonstration. "Challenger" becomes the first Bald Eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly into major sports stadiums during the presentation of the U.S.A.'s National Anthem.
- Al Cecere selected by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to serve as non-governmental representative on its Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Team. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Bob Hatcher is also selected.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation staff free-fly the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" before an Atlanta Braves game at the grand opening of Turner Field during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by the Georgia Mass Choir. This is the first major league baseball game at which this eagle performs an educational free-flight demonstration.
- Cecere's Foundation receives the Conservation Organization of the Year Award from the Tennessee Conservation League, National Wildlife Federation and Saturn Corporation.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service convenes two meetings of its Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Team in August (Georgia) and September (Arkansas) to begin work on updating the Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Plan. Al Cecere, TWRA's Bob Hatcher and various Federal/State eagle experts participate in planning process. The document will become an important first step in creating a Post De-listing Bald Eagle Monitoring Plan (as required by the ESA for any species before it is "de-listed").
- Al Cecere and his Foundation initiate and develop "Earth Day For Eagles" educational program and newsletter that will reach over 85,000 elementary schools coast to coast annually for several consecutive years (1991-2003). The program gets hundreds of schools actively involved in Bald Eagle care and recovery concerns. The program promotes an "American Eagle Day" Letter Writing Campaign, an "Adopt-An-Eagle" Program, a "Win An Eagle Visit To Your School" Drawing and a "Name An American Eaglet" Contest. Thousands of school children nationally participate by writing to their respective governors asking them to help establish "American Eagle Day" on June 20th, and will raise thousands of dollars to adopt permanently disabled bald eagles, including "Challenger" and "Osceola". This program is continued annually for seven years through 2003.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation launch the WWW.EAGLES.ORG website, which will attract millions of visitors internationally and become a primary educational resource for eagle enthusiasts and school children. The website also provides access to a "live" video-cam that website visitors can annually view the nesting, egg-laying and eaglet-rearing activities of a captive non-releasable Bald Eagle breeding pair named "Liberty" & "Justice". Website is developed by Al Cecere in cooperation with Carolyn Stalcup. Bob Hatcher will also become a substantial contributor to the development of the site.
- Al Cecere's Foundation honored with International Bald Eagle Days Award presented by Eagle Nature Foundation (Jan.)
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife service convenes two more meetings of the Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Team in June (Tennessee) and February (Florida). Al Cecere and Bob Hatcher attend/participate.
- Al Cecere, trained Bald Eagles "Challenger" and "America", elected U.S. Senate/House representatives and various wildlife officials participate in special press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. celebrating the 25th Birthday of the Endangered Species Act.
- Al Cecere honored by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency with Certificate of Appreciation for Extraordinary Support of Eagle Restoration & Related Educational Projects in Tennessee and nationally (Jan.).
- In July, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to remove the Bald Eagle from the list of "threatened" and "endangered species". Thereafter, the Service reviewed comments received on that proposal along with new data and information to determine the best ways to manage the species once it was eventually removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
- Al Cecere, the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger," and various governmental wildlife officials join President Clinton at White House on July 2nd to announce (to international media) progress made regarding Bald Eagle recovery and a proposal to "de-list" the bird from ESA protection on July 4, 2000. "Delisting" of Bald Eagle does not take place in 2000. Instead, the bird is actually delisted in 2007 under the George W. Bush Administration.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service convenes final meeting of the Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Team in January (Georgia). Draft of updated Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Plan is near completion. Al Cecere and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's Bob Hatcher attend/participate.
- With the help of numerous Tennessee media sponsors, entertainers and local businesses, Al Cecere and his Foundation produces the first of three annual American Eagle Weekend events in foothills of Great Smoky Mountains to promote public awareness about the Bald Eagle protection cause and related care/recovery programs. Events include a "Concert For America's Eagles," Taste Of The Smokies", "World Of Wildlife" Fine Art & Photography Show, "Friends Of Eagles" Auction, and "American Eagle Classic" Golf Tournament (1999, 2000 & 2001).
- National Foundation to Protect America's Eagles (N.F.P.A.E) officially changes its name to American Eagle Foundation (A.E.F.). Same Delaware corporation with name change only.
- Bald Eagle "de-listing" from Endangered Species Act protection does not occur while President Clinton is in office and is delayed until 2007 during the George W. Bush administration. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs more time to consider potential habitat preservation problems once Bald Eagle no longer has ESA protection and only protection under the Bald & Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940. Bald Eagle remains "Threatened" species for time being, until 2007.
- Tennessee Conservation League names American Eagle Foundation as the Tennessee Conservation Organization of the Year.
- Dollywood expands birds of prey facilities (located at private location off the Dollywood park in Pigeon Forge, TN) for captive breeding, rehabilitation, and daily care of AEF's approximate 80 birds of prey, including about 40 non-releasable Bald Eagles.
- Al Cecere and trained non-releasable Bald Eagle "Challenger" participate in post-Inauguration activities for President George W. Bush (January).
- Al Cecere and Bald Eagle "Challenger" join forces with International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and begin annual visits to various U.S. Senate and House of Representatives offices in Washington, D.C. to promote importance of "endangered"/ "threatened" wildlife conservation and the need for increased funding for the 50 state wildlife agencies. Since 2000, Congress has allocated $548 million for State Wildlife Grants for Fiscal Years 2001-2008.
- Bald Eagle "Challenger" is free-flown at a few Capitol Hill wildlife rallies in support of increased State wildlife funding. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist helps Cecere facilitate arrangements for such Capitol Hill eagle appearances (2001, 2002 & 2003).
- Right after 9/11, Al Cecere and the AEF staff free-fly the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at every New York Yankees home game during the fall of 2001, including 3 MLB World Series games. All these national anthem presentations are internationally televised, which makes the eagle "Challenger" an instant celebrity. The Bald Eagle "Challenger" will eventually perform educational free-flight demonstrations at over 288 major sporting and other special events, averaging over 20 per year over a 14-year period (beginning in 1995). Thereafter, he will end up free-flying 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 professional football game, Ground Breaking Ceremony for World War II Memorial, White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Pentagon and many other high-profile public events/places.
- Right after 9/11 tragedy, Al Cecere, AEF staff and the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" visit hundreds of rescue workers (including firemen, policemen and Red Cross) involved with Ground Zero in New York City.
- AEF develops detailed business plan outlining its future proposed public education, eagle care/recovery, and fundraising programs. It also forms an advisory board, which includes conservation, education, entertainment and business experts. "Decade of the Eagle" is established by AEF from 1991 to 2010.
- AEF reconfirms its earlier concern that the U.S.A. will need millions of dollars to care for and protect Bald Eagles and their habitat for future generations, especially after the Federal government eventually "de-lists" the Bald Eagle from ESA protection.
- AEF establishes a fledgling "American Eagle Fund" endowment, and steps up efforts to promote its "Protect America's Eagles" Campaign.
- Al Cecere and the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" join Roy Disney and Michael Eisner, as well as various wildlife and entertainment celebrities, for the Grand Opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. "Challenger" performs free-flight demonstration during press event for international media.
- AEF President Al Cecere and Bald Eagle "Challenger" join forces with George Bush Administration, including Department of Interior Secretary Gayle Norton and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams to kick-off 100th Anniversary Celebration of National Wildlife Refuge System. Jack Hanna, Roy Disney and other VIPs also participate in event.
- Al Cecere initiates and develops a State of Tennessee specialty license plate, featuring the image of the Bald Eagle Challenger and bearing the motto "In God We Trust," to raise public awareness and funds for Bald Eagle conservation programs. Tennessee State Legislature authorizes a bill to establish an official American Eagle Foundation license plate. State Representative Richard Montgomery sponsors the bill. Plate sales will raise about $1 million for the American Eagle Foundation by end of first quarter of 2010 (2005-2010).
- Al Cecere and the AEF staff free-fly the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" at various other sporting events, including Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and NFL Pro-Bowl All-Star game.
- First draft of Post-Delisting Bald Eagle Monitoring Plan completed and sent to Southeastern Bald Eagle Recovery Team members for review and comments.
- AEF develops educational video and public service announcements narrated by entertainer/songwriter supporter Dolly Parton
- AEF President Al Cecere, Dolly Parton and Bald Eagle "Challenger" join Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams, American Zoo & Aquarium President Sid Butler and various Smithsonian National Zoo officials to officially open new Bald Eagle aviary at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
- AEF donates non-releasable Bald Eagle pair to National Zoo for their new exhibit.
- During the Spring, Al Cecere and the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" (& Foundation staff) visit several dozen Congressional offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to enlist sponsor support for the Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act that Cecere proposes to aid nationwide eagle care and recovery projects. During the Fall, he and Challenger (& Foundation staff) visit 100 Senate offices within short period of time in November to enlist sponsor support for the Senate version of the Coin legislation. Senator Lamar Alexander, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Congressman Bill Jenkins and Congressman Harold Ford provide key sponsorship assistance for the Coin bill. Incredibly, both the Senate and House vote unanimously to pass the bill, and President George W. Bush signs it into law in December just prior to Christmas. U.S. Mint will design and market coins in 2008 to raise $7.5 million for Cecere's Foundation.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation establish a fledgling American Eagle Fund endowment, which will be used for future investment and distribution of Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act coin sales surcharge revenues.
- Al Cecere and Bob Hatcher establish Bald Eagle Grant Advisory Team (B.E.G.A.T.) consisting of a blue-ribbon panel of recognized Bald Eagle experts who will help the American Eagle Foundation select appropriate private, state and federal eagle care and recovery projects.
- Al Cecere and his Foundation initiate and develop "Eagle Mountain Natural Spring Water" brand, which is sold in 100 Food City supermarkets located in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia to help support public conservation education and eagle care/recovery programs (2004 & 2010).
- Al Cecere initiates and develops (in cooperation with children's author Margo Raven and a publishing agent in San Francisco) an illustrated storybook about the life of the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger." Book is published and distributed by Sleeping Bear Press (division of Thompson-Gale). This book is nationally distributed and sold beginning in 2005 to benefit public conservation education and eagle care/recovery programs.
- Al Cecere and trained non-releasable Bald Eagle "Challenger" (and AEF staff) participate in pre and post President George W. Bush Inauguration activities (January).
- In 2006, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service re-opened the publiccomment period due to new information on the proposal to delist. Data gathered during this comment period was factored into a final decision on the status of the species.
- Trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" is featured in cover story article in Audubon Magazine. A Washington, D.C. wildlife lobbyist is quoted as stating, "Al Cecere, with Challenger, are the best at influencing good wildlife legislation than anyone I have work with during the 10 years I've been visiting Congressional representatives."
- On June 28, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the recovery of our nation's symbol, the Bald Eagle, and removal of the bird from the list of "threatened" and "endangered" species.
- Al Cecere and trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" (& Foundation staff) join Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne and various U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials on June 28 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. for an international media press conference/ceremony announcing the removal of the Bald Eagle from Endangered Species Act protection. "Challenger" performs educational free-flight demonstration from the top steps of the Jefferson Memorial while NY policeman Daniel Rodriquez sings the "Star Spangled Banner."
- American Eagle Foundation honored with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director's Conservation Award (May).
- The American Eagle Foundation establishes a Bald Eagle Info Channel on YouTube (March 21). Since that time, many AEF related videos have been viewed many millions of times.
- The United States Mint markets and sells gold, silver and clad Bald Eagle Commemorative Coins, which raise surcharge revenues for the American Eagle Foundation in the amount of $7.76 million. The AEF places the funds in an American Eagle Fund endowment and various investments for future growth. $5.82 million is allocated by AEF to endowment for future support of Bald Eagle projects nationally - with first grants proposed to be given to various private, state and federal eagle projects in 2011 (if adequate interest on principle is generated).
- Al Cecere and trained Bald Eagle "Challenger" participate in President-Elect Barack Obama's star-studded "We Are One" concert celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and other post inauguration activities.
- Dollywood constructs new raptor housing/exhibit building adjacent to AEF's "Wings of America Theater" located on the Dollywood park. Al Cecere designs building in cooperation with Dollywood construction department.
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency estimates there are 85 successful Bald Eagle breeding pairs (active nests). The federal government estimates there are an estimated 12,000 Bald Eagle breeding pairs (active nests) located in the lower 48 States.
- The www.eagles.org website is completely redesigned by Al Cecere, Jason Adair and Carolyn Stalcup.
- Al Cecere and the trained Bald Eagles "Mr. Lincoln" and "Challenger" (and AEF staff) join Dolly Parton at an event on the Dollywood park to celebrate the 25th Anniversaries of both Dollywood and the American Eagle Foundation. "Challenger" performs a free-flight demonstration on this occasion for Dolly, the media and park visitors (March 26).
- The American Eagle Foundation begins their 20th "Wings of America" birds of prey show season at Dollywood (March 26).
- Al Cecere and the trained Bald Eagle "Challenger (and AEF staff) participate in a special memorial service at U.S. Dept. of Interior Headquarters in Washington, D.C. led by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to celebrate the life of deceased U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Director Sam Hamilton.
- 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.
- AEF issued 8 grants totaling $99,400 for Bald Eagle projects beginning in 2012.
- AEF captive-bred and released 7 Bald Eaglets into the
wild from its Douglas Lake hack site, where AEF had hacked and released
119 Bald Eaglets from 1992 through 2012.
- AEF President Al Cecere was featured on the TV
network program, "World's Greatest Heroes," based on AEF's
accomplishments for Bald Eagles.
- The live eagle nest cam showed live online hatching
and rearing of 3 Bald Eaglets, which were the 25th, 26th, & 27th
eaglets that their non-releasable parents, Independence and Franklin,
had hatched and reared during 2002 - 2012.
- AEF's free-flying Bald Eagle Challenger was flown at
approximately 340 major sporting events and conferences during
1996-2012, including 16 in 2012.
Article written April 2010; updated June 2013