Los Angeles (June 27, 2007) – The recovery of the bald eagle in the lower 48 states is a huge conservation success. But the lion's share of credit for the eagle's recovery should go to the 1972 ban of the pesticide DDT, not the Endangered Species Act, according to a new set of policy briefs by the Reason Foundation.
The Reason Foundation reports also suggest the Endangered Species Act often does more harm than good by pitting landowners against the very animals it is trying to save.
"Most landowners want to have, and help, rare species on their land," said Brian Seasholes, adjunct scholar at Reason Foundation and author of the briefs. "But the government's harsh penalties and the dire financial consequences that can come with finding an endangered species on your property are encouraging landowners to make their land inhospitable to endangered species by destroying their habitat."
A landowner can receive up to one year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine for harming a single eagle, egg, or even altering habitat.
"If someone tried to write a law aimed at harming wildlife, it would be hard to top the Endangered Species Act," Seasholes said. "The Endangered Species Act needs a new approach based on cooperation and tapping the enormous reservoir of goodwill towards wildlife that exists among America's landowners."
The Reason study says the bald eagle was never actually in danger of extinction; over 100,000 bald eagles live in Alaska and Canada. But there were fewer than 500 breeding pairs of bald eagles left in the lower 48 states in the 1960s. That number began increasing as soon as the pesticide DDT was banned and has risen steadily ever since. Today, there are over 11,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.
Despite being removed from the endangered list later this week, the bald eagle will continue to be subject to the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. As a result, landowners will continue to be turned into "unwitting enemies of bald eagles," warned Seasholes.
"Nearly 80 percent of endangered species make some or all of their homes on private land," he said. "Endangered species need the willing cooperation of private landowners, not regulations that needlessly drive wedges between them."
Full Reports Online
Click these links for the full Reason Foundation policy briefs:
The Bald Eagle, DDT, and the Endangered Species Act (.pdf) and The Bald Eagle's Worst Enemy - How Federal Law Pits Landowners Against Eagles (.pdf).
An archive of Reason's environment research and commentary is here.
Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed monthly magazine, Reason. For more information, please visit www.reason.org.
Brian Seasholes, Adjunct Scholar, Reason Foundation, (301) 787-0559
Adrian Moore, Vice President of Research, Reason Foundation, (661) 477-3107
Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109