Just in time for the Fourth of July, America's national bird - the bald eagle - is flying off the endangered species list.
"The American bald eagle is now back from the brink of extinction, thriving in virtually every state of the union," President Clinton said yesterday. "I can think of no better way to honor the birth of our nation than by celebrating the rebirth of our proudest living symbol."
Mr. Clinton started the process of removing the eagle from the special list, a process that will take a year. The bald eagle at the ceremony, Challenger, perhaps impatient to be officially taken off the list, took a nip at the president's hand.
When the Founding Fathers adopted the bald eagle as a national symbol in 1782, several hundred thousand bald eagles soared through the skies over North America. Hunting and two centuries of development led to declining populations, forcing Congress to enact the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, which forbade the killing or selling of bald eagles.
The population stabilized after World War II, but then eagles fell victim to the pesticide DDT, ingesting the chemical through contaminated fish. DDT made eagle egg shells too fragile for the young eagles to survive.
In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT, and under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1967 and again under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bald eagle as endangered in most of the continental United States. The endangered species listing allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to accelerate breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, law enforcement, and the protection of nest sites during breeding season.
Although removed from the endangered species list, the bird will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which forbid killing unless "specifically authorized" by the Interior Department. The federal government will continue to monitor the species for five years.
Yesterday, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said that the "American bald eagle is back," and that it shows that the landmark endangered species act "works."
Mr. Clinton also …