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Bald eagles getting off endangered species list

If all goes as planned, the bald eagle will be removed from the endangered species list by month’s end, marking the success of efforts to protect the national icon begun 40 years ago, even before the Endangered Species Act became law.

The bald eagle will continue to be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after delisting becomes official on or before June 29.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a new legal definition this month about "disturbing" eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act that environmentalists and federal biologists hope will help prevent the bald eagle from returning to the list of endangered species.

"Disturb," under the definition, means "to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause" injury to an eagle, decrease its productivity by interfering with its ability to breed, feed or seek shelter, or abandon its nest.

"Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, bald eagles are ready to fly on their own," said John Kostyack, the National Wildlife Federation’s director of conservation campaigns.

"The birds are thriving, and all the recovery goals are met," he said in a June 1 statement. "We are making sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before taking the last step and delisting the species."

In Nevada, counts in recent years of bald eagles that migrate to lakes Mead and Mohave have paralleled the national trend of the bald eagle’s recovery.

This year’s annual mid-winter survey conducted by the National Park Service in conjunction with surveys nationwide documented 87 bald eagles at lakes Mead and Mohave, the highest on record and eight more than the previous record in 2002.

Last year, 67 bald eagles were counted on lakes Mead and Mohave, the same number as in 2005.

Predating the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the bald eagle was declared an endangered species in 1967 for much of the United States except for areas north of the 40th parallel, especially Alaska.

About half of all bald eagles in the world thrive in Alaska.

In 1963, only 417 nesting pairs were known to exist in the contiguous 48 states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tallied 5,748 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1999, and this year there are more than 8,200, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation.

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