Bald eagles have become plentiful enough in Pennsylvania that wildlife officials said on Thursday they plan to join a nationwide trend of U.S. states taking the once-endangered national bird off the "threatened" list.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management's Endangered and Nongame Birds is recommending dropping bald eagles from the state's threatened species list as it has verified 266 nesting pairs, including two roosting within Pittsburgh city limits, said Doug Gross, who leads the section.
The birds' comeback is largely due to the banning of the pesticide DDT and strictly enforced habitat protection, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Since being taken off the national endangered species list in 2007, bald eagle populations have been surging and states have begun rescinding their own threatened species protections, including Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Virginia and Oregon.
Delaware and Pennsylvania are now moving to delist bald eagles as a threatened species, said Bob Mulvihill, ornithologist at Pittsburgh's National Aviary.
"Bald eagle populations are stable just about everywhere, and seem to be continually expanding," said Mark Martell, director of conservation for the National Audubon Society.
Bald eagles remain protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. Under the Eagle Act, anyone who harms or disturbs eagles faces up to one year in jail and, for repeated offenses, a fine as high as $250,000.
In Pittsburgh, the western Pennsylvania city of 300,000 people, Mulvihill said he lives about 10 minutes from a bald eagle nest.
"The impact of having that species close enough so that people can see it -- so that it's not just an abstract symbol -- that has a far reaching impact on everyone's perspective about nature and the environment," Mulvihill said.
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