- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

When President Clinton announced at a grand Fourth of July event in 1999 that the bald eagle was being removed from the Endangered Species List, critics called the announcement a political move to bolster the presidential campaign for Vice President Al Gore.
Three years later, with the regal bird that the Founding Fathers adopted in 1782 as the national symbol still on the Endangered Species List, those critics say they are vindicated.
"It is now quite clear that President Clinton's bald eagle announcement was nothing more than a politically motivated photo opportunity props and all," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican.
"Three years after the supposed delisting date, the bald eagle still remains on what I call the perpetually endangered list. If the former president and federal agencies spent more time actually using sound science to protect and recover species, instead of politically charged hyperbole, we may actually see some positive results," Mr. Radanovich said.
Mr. Clinton said the delisting process would take one year, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the bird is still on the list.
"The American bald eagle is now back from the brink of extinction, thriving in virtually every state of the union," Mr. Clinton said in making the announcement.
"I can think of no better way to honor the birth of our nation than by celebrating the rebirth of our proudest living symbol," Mr. Clinton said.
Fish and Wildlife spokesman Chris Tollefson said the holdup is over two other federal laws that also protect the eagle the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Federal officials have spent the last three years working on management guidelines and a five-year monitoring plan for the bird once it is delisted. The proposal to delist must first be published in the Federal Register, comments taken from the public, and only then would the final determination be made by Fish and Wildlife Director Steven A. Williams and Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Mr. Tollefson said.
"We have proposed for delisting, but we haven't delisted until we publish," Mr. Tollefson said.
The additional laws protecting eagles makes delisting tougher than other species, Mr. Tollefson said.
Asked if Mrs. Norton supported delisting, Interior spokesman Hugh Vickery said the regulatory process is not absolute, but the department is confident the eagle will eventually fly off the list.
"The delay is a complicated process," Mr. Vickery said. "The Fish and Wildlife Service clearly believes they have met the recovery goals and it is ready to be delisted."
There are more than 1,200 species on the Endangered Species List, created when Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Since then, 32 species have been delisted, including seven once thought to be extinct.
"They hate to let things come off the list because as long as the species is on that list they can control everything," said R.J. Smith, executive director of the Center for Private Conservation.
Human activity and development in a quarter-mile radius of an eagle's nest is severely restricted.
"The best way to slow down development is to leave [the eagle] on the Endangered Species List as long as possible," Mr. Smith said.
Today, there are more than 6,000 pairs of breeding eagles in the United States. In 1963, 417 nesting pairs were recorded, Mr. Tollefson said.
Mr. Radanovich called the act "a bureaucratic nightmare inefficient and ambiguous."
"While it has become quite cosmopolitan for dysfunctional federal agencies to list species at alarming rates, it is no surprise that they have failed in recovering and delisting so-called endangered species," Mr. Radanovich said.

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