DNR supports bald eagles' removal from endangered list
The success the Indiana DNR has had reintroducing bald eagles demonstrates locally the rationale of the recent move by United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which announced June 28, it would remove the iconic birds from the federal "threatened" designation of the Endangered Species Act, effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Bald eagles are still listed as state-endangered in Indiana, but, as a reaction to the national change, the State's DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Diversity Section plans to change that classification to "Species of Special Concern." That means bald eagles would still be a priority species, and that monitoring and management of the species would continue, but to a lesser degree.
The federal recovery goal for Indiana was to have five nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state by 2000. An active state restoration from 1985-89, when 73 young eagles were reintroduced, formed a core population in south-central Indiana. The first successful nests in the state in more than 90 years were documented in 1991.
As long as the bald eagle remained on the federal threatened list, by state law they needed to remain on the state endangered list. The Non-game Bird Technical Advisory Committee to the Wildlife Diversity Section recommended removing bald eagles from the state list once a nesting population of at least 50 pairs was being maintained in Indiana.
That standard was first achieved in 2004, and the population continues to increase annually. This year, there are 85 known eagle territories in 42 counties, producing 123 eaglets. The excellent production of recent years should result in further increases. As a result, with federal de-listing, Indiana will begin the process of removing bald eagles from the state list.
In Indiana and elsewhere, additional eagle habitat is available, especially as bald eagles have shown increased adaptability to the Hoosier landscape and disturbance factors. Hoosier landowners have shown a great willingness to voluntarily protect eagle nests on their property.
More than any other recovered species, the bald eagle demonstrates the power of partnerships in conservation. The success of bald eagles in Indiana is due in large part to individual citizen donations to the Non-game Fund, either directly or through the income tax check-off.
"Everyone who has supported the Non-game Fund through the years can take great pride in this achievement," said Rob Carter, DNR Director. "The eagle, once a sign of imperiled wildlife will now be the sign of conservation success.
"With the continued support of our citizens we can restore even more state-endangered species. Look for the eagle on your income tax return and join a winning team in saving Indiana's wildlife heritage."
Carter also noted that DNR has successfully worked with the USFWS and Hoosier landowners to make sure breeding pairs have had every chance to succeed.
"As our national symbol, this is a special bird and landowners have shown great pride and cooperation in having nesting eagles," he said. "We expect that to continue."
Despite the classification change, bald eagles will still be protected under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Guidelines have also been developed to avoid disturbance to nesting eagles.
"The eagle restoration project has been a gratifying highlight of my career," said Dr. John Castrale, DNR non-game bird biologist." I hope all cooperating landowners and Non-game Fund supporters have the thrill of seeing an adult bald eagle in flight over one of Indiana's lakes or rivers."