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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Happens to the Bald Eagle Now That It Is Not Protected Under the Endangered Species Act?

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

In 2007 the American bald eagle was removed from the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the ESA was not the only statute protecting the eagle. Among the federal statutes protecting the bald eagle are the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Additionally, state laws and federal agency policy continue to protect the bird. This report reviews the Endangered Species Act protections for the bald eagle and compares them to the protections remaining under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It also considers other legal protections that shield the bald eagle from harm, such as state laws and other federal acts and policies. Finally, it briefly discusses the Sonoran Desert bald eagle population that was listed as a threatened species in May 2008, following a court order, but was delisted in March 2010 when it was determined that those eagles were not a distinct population segment of bald eagles in general. 

Some differences in protection under BGEPA and MBTA, compared with the ESA, are as follows: 
  • Habitat protection is uncertain, based on a new regulatory definition that is untested in the courts. 
  • Federal agencies will not have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before developing a project that could harm bald eagles. 
  • Private citizens will not be able to initiate actions against other private citizens to claim that eagles are harmed. 
  • The federal government probably will be immune from most enforcement. 
  • The incidental take permit under BGEPA is not as involved as the permit under the ESA, and does not require any public notice or comment, even for federal projects.

Date of Report: October 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL34174
Price: $29.95

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