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Lawsuit Launched to Reinstate Endangered Species Act Protection for Arizona's Desert Nesting Bald Eagles

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society have filed a notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin new legal proceedings to return Endangered Species Act protection to Arizona’s rare desert nesting bald eagles. The Fish and Wildlife Service removed protection from the eagles for the third time on May 1, 2012.

“There are only 200 or so desert nesting bald eagles left on Earth. They’re an isolated population, uniquely adapted to a hot and dry environment where no other American eagles survive. To deny them the protection that could save them from extinction is just wrong,” said Dr. Robin Silver of the Center.

Bald eagle experts recognize the uniqueness of the desert eagles, which do not breed with other eagles and are important to the bald eagle population as a whole — especially in light of the pressure global warming will put on endangered species. For more than three decades, the Fish and Wildlife Service recognized this. But on July 18, 2006, Service administrators issued “marching orders” to their staff “to find an analysis that works” to deny Endangered Species Act protection to the birds.    

The agency’s May 1, 2012 decision to delist marked the third time it has moved to take away Endangered Species Act protection from the eagles. The first two attempts (Aug. 30, 2006 and Feb. 25, 2010) were found to be “arbitrary and capricious” by two separate judges (March 5, 2008 and Nov. 30, 2011) who both ordered Fish and Wildlife to reexamine its decision.

“Over three decades, the Fish and Wildlife Service spent millions of dollars on the desert nesting bald eagle because this population is so unique and important to the bald eagle population as a whole. Now they abruptly change their mind and relegate our eagle to the trash bin. What a historically tragic action," said Dr. Bob Witzeman of Maricopa Audubon.

In 2004, the Center and Maricopa Audubon petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection of the desert-nesting population to save it from habitat destruction and off-road vehicles; the Act is the only law protecting eagle habitat.


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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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