Fortunately, Pennsylvania is not the only place bald eagles are thriving. In fact, many states are seeing similar nesting success thanks to similar restoration efforts. In New Jersey, for example, bald eagle nests jumped from one in 1982 to 135 in 2006. Today, Ohio has more than 200 nests, Maryland and Virginia more than 400 nests, Maine more than 500, and Michigan more than 700. Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin report more than 1,000 nests.
A variety of factors helped bring bald eagles back. The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act provided federal protection. The Clean Water Act provided the authority to clean the nation's rivers and lakes. It took many years, but today's clean waterways provide the fish that eagles eat.
Educational efforts have taught the public to respect eagle nests and stay a reasonable distance from active nests to prevent disturbing them.
Thanks to Rachel Carson's warnings from the early 1960s, we came to understand that the insecticide DDT crippled the reproductive success of bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons and brown pelicans. DDT caused birds that ingested it from lower on the food chain to lay eggs with shells so thin they cracked during incubation. Nest success for these species dropped to near zero. Outlawing DDT in the early 1970s caused hatching rates to increase rapidly. (Though still illegal in the U.S., DDT is still manufactured and exported to Latin America.)
Thirty years have passed since many of these efforts to restore bald eagle populations were initiated. Clearly time heals even environmental wounds. The story of the bald eagle's restoration and recovery has become one of wildlife management's greatest success stories.
In 1982, bald eagles were critically endangered. In 1994, their status was upgraded from endangered to threatened. And in 2007, bald eagles were removed from the national list of threatened species. Today seeing a bald eagle along a big river or lake is more an expectation than a surprise. And it's an encounter no one ever forgets.
Contact Shalaway at sshala...@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.