- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bald eagles, once at risk of extinction, continued their strong comeback last year in Virginia with a 16 percent increase in active nests and a record number of eaglets, figures from a federal program show.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program said 618 nests yielded 903 baby eagles in 2001, the most since records on the threatened national symbol were first kept in 1977.
"We hope to see their numbers continue to grow throughout the next decade, as Bay protection and restoration activities expand," Diana Esher, acting director of the Bay program, said.
In 1977, the year before bald eagles were placed on the endangered species list, only 72 nests were found in the Bay's three-state watershed.
Even then, the eagle population was rebounding because of a federal ban put in place five years earlier on use of the pesticide DDT. The chemical, once widely used in agriculture, weakened the shells of the birds' eggs and was the leading cause of the decline of eagle populations.
Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing the birds from protected lists. The challenge then would be for society to help them prosper by remaining aware of the type of environment bald eagles need, said Mike Fritz, coordinator for the Bay program.
"The eagle's comeback now challenges us to do what's right with their habitat, which is threatened now," Mr. Fritz said. Eagles "need forested habitat alongside the water and relatively undisturbed areas to nest in."
That is also the sort of land on the Bay and its tributaries that developers desire.
Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which have worked for years to restore the Chesapeake, recently have focused on protecting open space and wildlife habitat.


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