CELEBRATING THE RETURN OF THE AMERICAN BALD EAGLE
July 2, 1999
Today, on the eve of Independence Day weekend, President Clinton celebrates the success of the Endangered Species Act by announcing action to remove the American bald eagle from the endangered species list. In remarks at the White House, the President also calls on Congress to approve his historic Lands Legacy initiative, which would provide permanent funding of at least $1 billion a year to protect wildlife habitat, farms, urban parks, and natural treasures across America.
America's Living Symbol Soars Again. In 1782, when the Continental Congress selected the bald eagle for the Great Seal of the United States, as many as half a million eagles soared the skies of North America. But by 1963 – as a result of hunting, loss of prey and habitat, and widespread use of the pesticide DDT, which made the birds' eggs too fragile to survive – only 417 breeding pairs remained in the lower 48 states. The banning of DDT in 1972, passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and reintroduction efforts by scientists and citizens across the country have led to a dramatic recovery. Today, breeding pairs thrive in all but two of the lower 48 states – at last count, nearly 5,800 in all.
Another Endangered Species Success. Bald eagles were first declared endangered in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the precursor to the Endangered Species Act. Four years ago, with recovery well under way, the eagle was upgraded from endangered to threatened. Today, with the species no longer in danger of extinction, the President announces that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is formally proposing that the eagle be declared fully recovered, with final action due in one year. Since 1978, 21 species including the American alligator and the gray whale have been removed from the endangered species list. Eight others, including the peregrine falcon, are now proposed for "delisting."
Under the Endangered Species Act, one of the nation's landmark environmental laws, the Fish and Wildlife Service works with state and local governments, conservationists, and landowners to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species. The Clinton Administration has pioneered the use of collaborative approaches under the Act, approving nearly 250 "habitat conservation plans," which help preserve habitat for a wide range of species while allowing property owners added flexibility in the use of their land.
Preserving America's Lands Legacy. The balanced budget proposed by the President for fiscal year 2000 includes an historic $1 billion Lands Legacy initiative – the largest one-year investment ever proposed for protecting America's land and coastal resources. Lands Legacy would expand federal efforts to protect natural treasures and would provide new assistance to communities to restore and preserve wildlife habitat, farms, urban parks, and other local green spaces. In addition, the President is proposing permanent funding of at least $1 billion a year beginning in fiscal year 2001 to sustain these efforts through the new century. Congressional committees have slashed the proposed fiscal year 2000 funding – by 74 percent in the House and 62 percent in the Senate. The President today calls on Congress to fully fund Lands Legacy in fiscal year 2000 and to approve permanent funding for the years ahead.