Jan. 8, 2007 – With only 100 bald eagles left in the Arizona desert, environmental groups filed a complaint against the US government for taking the population off the Endangered Species List.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) removed all bald eagles, including populations in the Southwest, from the Endangered Species List in August of last year.
The Maricopa Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity argue the decision neglected to consider the threats Arizona bald eagles face. Their legal complaint argues that desert eagles, reproductively and geographically isolated from other bald eagles, are not recovering from possible extinction the way other eagles have.
The groups also accuse the FWS of neglecting a peer-reviewed study it commissioned from the Raptor Research Foundation, a group of scientists who study hawks and eagles. The Foundation suggested Arizona bald eagles should not be de-listed from endangered status, given the low population and environmental threats caused by a growing human population in the area.
The plaintiffs in the case say an increasingly hostile climate brought on by global warming, the continued presence of toxic substances and other environmental factors have decreased the life span and reproduction of bald eagles in Arizona. They want the FWS to classify the Arizona bald eagle as a distinct population and reconsider its status as an endangered species.
Last August, the FWS denied a petition to classify the desert eagle as a distinct population, determining that bald eagles in other states such as Florida and California share the same characteristics.
The agency agreed that if the bald eagle population in Arizona declines to zero, there are few eagles in neighboring areas such as Mexico that could repopulate them.
The Arizona Bald Eagle Nest Watch Program calculates that there are 43 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining in the state.