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Two bald eagle eggs have hatched in Florida, part of a huge success story. Here’s what conservationists say we can learn from it


These tiny creatures aren’t just amazing to see. Experts say they represent one of the country’s greatest conservation success stories – because about six decades ago, America’s national icon was on the brink of extinction.

“We have restored bald eagles in every state in the country,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biodiversity. “This is perhaps the most geographically extensive recovery effort of any endangered species.”

Federal law plays a huge role in bird recovery and is credited with helping to keep hundreds of other species alive since then, with the help of federal protection agencies.

“It’s a fact that the human population continues to grow and we’re forcing wildlife into smaller and smaller areas to live, but in species like the bald eagle, we’ve shown that we can live side by side as long as we’re simple, says Hartl.

Here’s what experts say we can learn from the iconic bird’s success story and how Americans can help these animals now in danger.

Eagles on January 7, 2022.

What are the biggest threats to the species?

As the federal government moves to protect the bald eagle, the species has faced a number of serious threats, including habitat destruction, shooting, DDT, and lead poisoning. when eating animals that have been killed with lead bullets or contaminated with dangerous pesticides.

Nearly two dozen species of birds, fish and other wildlife are about to be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list.

DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, was developed in the 1940s and is used to control mosquitoes and other insects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this chemical has been classified as a probable human carcinogen and correlates with liver tumors in animals.

DDT interfered with the bald eagle’s ability to create sturdy eggshells, which would either be crushed during incubation or not hatch. The EPA banned its use in 1972, which experts say became an important first step in the bald eagle’s recovery. More help came when the ESA became law, according to United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

“This is where science meets policy,” said John Horning, chief executive officer of WildEarth Guardians. “As a society, we realized that a particular human action was threatening this iconic species, so we started phasing out DDT and that, combined with protecting habitat and even stopping hunting, are the main reasons bald eagles have done so well.”

The Sierra Nevada red fox is now protected and listed as endangered
Today, there are more than 1,300 endangered or threatened species across the United States EPA. According to the EPA, the biggest reason species are endangered is because humans have altered or polluted their habitats. Manatees, It’s a protected under ESA, is an example of the devastating effects of pollution.
Last month, conservation groups including the Center for Biodiversity and Wildlife Defenders announced they would sue the EPA Because they failed to protect animals from Florida’s water pollution, which has spurred algae blooms and killed thousands of acres of seagrass that manatees eat, leaving large creatures to starve, they say. speak.
More than 1,000 dead manatees in Florida in 2021. The groups gave the EPA 60 days to resolve the violations before they filed a lawsuit.

“EPA is concerned about manatee deaths and is committed to working with Florida and other partners to implement nutrient reduction strategies,” an EPA spokesperson told CNN in a statement. “We have received the notice and are currently reviewing it.”

The endangered North Atlantic right whale population is the lowest they've had in nearly 20 years

Jacob Malcom, director of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife, told CNN that pollution is one of the main drivers of the extinction crisis.

Malcom said: “Manatees show an expression of what happens when we don’t take the actions we know need to be taken.

Other threats facing species today include climate change, exploitation (eg, American alligator hunting leading to the decline of species prior to federal protection and restoration), and invasive species.
Mosquito Invasion multiply in Hawaii For example, because a warming climate is spreading malaria to birds endemic to those islands – and killing them.

“The birds basically started to disappear on those islands,” Hartl said.

How do we pull a species from the brink of extinction?

The good news is that federal safeguards usually work.

“The fact that almost every species that has been listed is still on Earth today, most of them not yet extinct, is a success,” said Malcolm, of Defenders of Wildlife.

Measures commonly taken to protect species and prevent them from becoming extinct include prohibition measures. These include a ban on hunting in the case of the alligator or a ban on DDT that has contributed to the bald eagle’s recovery.

DNA can now be extracted from the very air we breathe.  It can help track endangered animals

Another important measure is habitat restoration.

“To make sure that every species has a place to live, that is the single most important intervention to keep something from the brink of actual extinction,” says Hartl.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently proposed list of other species Endangered due to habitat loss: Tiehm’s Buckwheat. This tree, found only in Nevada, is threatened by a lithium deposit that could wipe out nearly all of its natural habitat. This announcement is a huge win for conservationists, who have sounded the alarm about this species and urged the Biden administration take action to protect it.
The battle to list a species on the ESA can often take decades, said Horning, stymied by a process that can often be politicized. Action critics say it failed to modernize with the timesand some species remain listed for too long, even after they have recovered from extinction. And a number of industries – including mining and agriculture – say the law discourages business.

But removing species from the list too quickly can have devastating consequences.

Since Trump administration gets rid of gray wolf From the endangered species list, which said the animal population has fully recovered, there has been an “incredible increase” in hunting and killing around Yellowstone National Park, Malcom said. , Malcom said.
Montana's request for federal protection for many of its grizzly bears to be lifted.  This will allow hunting for the first time in decades

Wildlife Conservation announced in a news release Friday that 20 gray wolves from the park were shot dead by hunters after leaving park boundaries – 15 in Montana, and five in Idaho and Wyoming. Foundation President Jamie Rappaport Clark has called on the government to restore federal protections.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte also petitioned the federal government last month to remove the grizzly bear list, stating that the animal had “far exceeded population recovery goals.” Activists have warned against such a move, and the FWS itself also says there are still some challenges to fully rehabilitating the bear in the lower 48 states.

What can you do

While the practice is still widespread and largely successful in helping species recover, there is still plenty of room for improvement, experts say.

Biden administration plans to undo Trump-era restrictions to protect Endangered Species Act
Last year, Biden administration has moved to undo a handful of Trump-era restrictions that critics say rollback ESA’s protections. It’s a step in the right direction, Malcom said, but the government can do more, including better funding legislation to support its efforts, such as recovery initiatives. habitat restoration.

There are also things Americans can do to support conservation efforts, Horning said, including volunteering with environmental groups as well as reaching out to legislators to show support for these initiatives. conservation ant.

“Elected officials respond to the voices they hear, so if you’re quiet on these issues, they’ll respond to the loudest voices,” says Horning.

Showing support for local leaders and legislation promoting conservation can go a long way, experts say.

Representative Joe Neguse, who represents Boulder, Colorado, reintroduced a resolution last January calls for the development of a national biodiversity strategy, which will encourage government agencies to implement actions and policies to address the ongoing biodiversity crisis. Such strategies can also help advance ESA efforts, says Malcolm.

“We needed that kind of movement,” says Malcolm. “We need that support that says, ‘this is a national priority,’ because these species depend on it and ultimately, humans depend on it. We all depend on nature. .”

CNN’s Talib Visram contributed to this report.

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