For Immediate Release
Motion Filed to Extend Review of Endangered Desert Nesting Bald Eagle
PHOENIX - Conservationists and American Indians filed a court request Wednesday requesting an extension of a deadline for protecting Arizona's desert nesting bald eagle
to allow Arizona's Indian nations, communities, and tribes time to
demonstrate that the eagle's historical range is more extensive than
acknowledged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Service's removal of the eagle's Endangered Species Act protections
was reversed in March by U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia. The
judge ordered the Service to immediately reinstate protections and
provide a new evaluation and decision by December 5th. Wednesday's
motion, which seeks to extend the decision to October 12th, 2009,
enjoys support from Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and the Fort
McDowell Yavapai Nation, and is unopposed by the Fish and Wildlife
"The desert nesting bald eagle population
is highly threatened and entirely distinct from other bald eagle
populations," said Dr. Robin Silver, co-founder and board member of the
Center for Biological Diversity and vice president of Maricopa Audubon.
"Today's request affords Indian people time to determine the eagle's
historical range - before we lost 90 percent of the riparian areas it
To date, support for Endangered
Species Act protection for Arizona's desert nesting bald eagle has been
filed by the following organizations and desert nesting bald eagle
experts (click to see the letters): The Raptor Research Foundation, Arizona Audubon, Center for Biological Diversity, Richard Glinski, Robert Magill, Steve Hoffman, Ron Horejsi, E. Linwood Smith, Robert Ohmart, R. William Mannan, Robert Steidl, Clayton White, William Mader, John Gunn, and Rich Erman.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has also rejected the Fish and
Wildlife Service's refusal to recognize the population's designation as
a "distinct population segment."
motion was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Maricopa
Audubon, the Intertribal Council of Arizona, and the Salt River
Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Attorneys Dan Rohlf of Lewis &
Clark Law School Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, Justin
Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity, and Howard Shanker of
Flagstaff represent the Center and Maricopa Audubon in this case.
Only about 60 breeding pairs of desert nesting bald eagles survive.
They are reproductively, geographically, biologically, and behaviorally
distinct from all other bald eagle populations, and occupy uniquely hot
and dry habitat. Unique populations and their habitat qualify for
Endangered Species Act protection with a designation as a "distinct
Increasing habitat threats
represent the gravest risk to nesting eagles in Arizona, mostly because
of increasing groundwater pumping drying up streamside nesting habitat.
The Endangered Species Act is the only law that protects the habitat of
On October 6, 2004, the
Center and Maricopa Audubon filed a petition requesting increased
protection for the bald eagle in Arizona. The petition was based on
evidence of increasing threats to habitat and presentation of data from
a suppressed Arizona Game and Fish Department study that demonstrated
likely extinction of nesting bald eagles from Arizona in 57 to 82
years. Future extinction is likely in spite of recent population gains,
due to high mortalities of juveniles and adults.
On August 30, 2006, the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the petition
by the Center and Maricopa Audubon, and on July 9, 2007, it removed
Endangered Species Act protection from all bald eagles nationwide. On
January 4, 2007, the Center and Maricopa Audubon filed a lawsuit in
federal court challenging the rejection of the petition and inclusion
of Arizona's desert nesting bald eagle in the nationwide removal of
Endangered Species Protection. The San Carlos Apache Tribe,
Yavapai-Apache Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe, Fort McDowell Yavapai
Nation, and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community all joined the
lawsuit to help protect the desert nesting bald eagle.
On March 5, 2008, Murguia reversed the Service's 2006 petition
rejection, calling it "arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to law."
She also reinstated Endangered Species Act protection for the eagle and
its habitat in Arizona and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to
complete a re-evaluation of its 2006 decision within nine months, by
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