Al Cecere, Challenger, and President Clinton at the White House, July 1999
On July 2, 1999 the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and its non-releasable trained bald eagle, "Challenger," joined President Clinton at the White House to announce a proposal to "delist" the bald eagle from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.
However, that action was delayed by the federal government until it could be resolved how to protect eagle habitat, which would no longer be under protection of the ESA.
On June 28, 2007, Challenger was released during an event at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington to celebrate the removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list.
The bald eagle was delisted from its Threatened status on June 28, 2007 in the lower 48 states. Its primary legal protection was transferred from the ESA to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). "Disturbance" of bald and golden eagles had already been prohibited under the BGEPA. However, since "disturb" had never been defined in this Act, it was defined to protect both eagle species and their habitats, as follows: Of four optional definitions under review (and therefore subject to slight change), the preferred option of the Fish and Wildlife Service is:
"Disturb means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to the degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available: (1) injury to an eagle, (2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with its normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) or nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with its normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior."
Further guidance for eagle management and for avoiding "disturbance" can be found at the following web site: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/issues/BaldEagle/NationalBaldEagleManagementGuidelines.pdf.
For over 200 years, the Bald Eagle has served as the proud living symbol of the United States. It was adopted as the national emblem by our country's Founding Fathers at the Second Continental Congress in 1782, and has since stood for independence, timeless ideals, and a long tradition of excellence and integrity.
In the early 1960s, we almost lost this beautiful bird due to our own carelessness. It had once flourished in the lower 48 states, but became an endangered species due to years of indiscriminate shooting and widespread use of the pesticide DDT.
However our people and government became vigilant in its protection. They worked resourcefully together for decades to bring the eagle back from the brink of extinction. At last, they were successful. Today, bald eagles populations have substantially expanded in virtually every state in the union. Now, vital funding for further eagle monitoring and the safeguarding of critical nesting habitat is becoming scarce. Federal and state agencies have transferred to the public more responsibility for the preservation and care of their national bird.
While celebrating the significant battles we've won, we must not forget that many new challenges still lie ahead. The good fight must continue until the full and healthy recovery of the bald eagle is achieved. Successful monitoring and protection of eagle nests and habitat, especially those located on private lands, will be key to the eagles' continued progress. More than ever before, we must work together to keep America's eagles flying strong and free into the 21st century and beyond.
The AEF is a non-profit citizens' effort dedicated to conducting programs that will ensure a secure and healthy future for this precious national treasure. Join us in making a major public statement about love of country and caring for our wonderful natural world.
November 19, 2007