11/1/2012 1:07:00 PM Editorial: Arizona desert bald eagles still need endangered species protection
When it comes to preservation of Arizona’s desert eagles, it only makes sense to take the better-safe-than-sorry route.
That’s why our hat goes off to the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society for their relentless legal battles against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to give these birds endangered species protection.
On Oct. 30, the two organizations filed their third lawsuit charging that USFWS has based its conclusion on politics instead of science.
True, 2011 was a banner year for desert bald eagle reproduction. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Arizona eagles set three records -- most eggs, most nesting sites and most nestlings fledged. Of the 79 eggs laid, at 55 breeding sites, 56 survived and fledged.
One year earlier, though, heavy winter rains made it only an average year. With a wet winter, the Verde River and Oak Creek get really muddy and the adult eagles are unable to find fish. When they can’t support themselves, they end up abandoning their nest so they can go out foraging. The breeding pairs that year at the Tower nesting site upstream from Clarkdale and the Ladders breeding site 10 miles south of Camp Verde made no contribution to the state’s struggling eagle population.
The previous year, the Towers and Ladders breeding sites failed to produce any eggs. The eggs laid at the Tower site failed during incubation. Both eggs laid at the Ladders site hatched, but neither bird lived.
The Center for Biological Diversity interprets the population statistics as a sign of the worsening situation of the birds. It also bears emphasis that the Arizona Game and Fish Dept. has teamed with Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rescue and rehab organization out of Scottsdale, to build and place artificial nests to enhance survival rates for eagle fledglings.
Perhaps U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is right and if we leave well enough alone, desert bald eagles will survive and thrive on their on.
But do we want to chance it based on the evidence? The Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society most definitely need to keep up the good fight.