“I am proud to say the eagle has returned,” he said.
About 11,000 pairs of bald eagles now live in the 48 lower states,a far cry from the 417 pairs in 1963,the American Bird Conservancy said. The birds were put on the endangered species list in 1967,and four decades later,have made a full recovery.
Kempthorne said 1,300 species are on the endangered species list,which has a recovery rate of about 1 percent.
“I would like to see us have more days like this when we can announce success and victory and delisting of species,” he said.
Much of the credit for the bald eagle's recovery is due to the 1972 banning of DDT,a pesticide widely used after World War II. The chemical got into the fish the eagles ate and caused their eggs to weaken,threatening survival chances for new birds,the Interior Department said.
But habitat conservation,including limiting development on land where eagles nest,also played a big role in helping the bald eagle,Kempthorne said. Despite losing protection from the Endangered Species Act,the bald eagle is still protected under the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act,which prohibits disturbing an eagle's nest or trying to harm an eagle,with fines up to $5,000 and a possible year in prison.
Ron Regan,who worked with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department for 25 years,said he'd never seen a bald eagle's nest in the state until last year.
Vermont,the District of Columbia and Rhode Island have one nesting pair of bald eagles each. Northwestern and Great Lakes states have the highest numbers of pairs in the lower 48 states,with up to 1,065 in Minnesota,according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Alaska,the eagles have never been threatened,and between 50,000 and 70,000 birds are estimated to live there.
Kempthorne said he wants to lead the Interior Department to focus more on preventing species from ever being named to the endangered list.