Arizona Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle Removed From Endangered Species List
Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210,
Bald Eagle by Steve Hildebrand, USFWS
(September 20, 2011) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a final rule that removes the population of Bald Eagles nesting in the Sonoran Desert area of central Arizona from the Endangered Species List. This had been the last remaining population of Bald Eagles listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The FWS action was set in motion by an October 6, 2004, petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Maricopa Audubon Society, and the Arizona Audubon Council requesting that the Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle population be classified as a distinct population segment (DPS) under the ESA, that this DPS be reclassified from threatened to endangered, and that FWS concurrently designate Critical Habitat for the DPS under the Act.
On August 30, 2006, FWS denied the petition, saying that it did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the action may be warranted. Shortly afterwards, CBD and the Maricopa Audubon Society filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging this finding.
On July 9, 2007, FWS published the final rule removing all Bald Eagles in the lower 48 States, including those in the Sonoran Desert, from the ESA due to the species’ recovery. On August 17, 2007, CBD and the Maricopa Audubon Society filed a motion requesting the court make a decision on their pending lawsuit. Several Native American Tribes, including the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, submitted briefs in support of the motion.
On March 5, 2008, the court ruled in favor of CBD and Maricopa Audubon, and put an injunction on the Service's final rule delisting the Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle pending a status review of the population to determine whether it qualified as a DPS, and if so, whether listing that DPS as threatened or endangered werewarranted.
On February 25, 2010, the Service completed its status review and published a 12-month finding determining that the Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle did not qualify as a DPS and was therefore not a listable entity under the ESA. As a result, on September 30, 2010, the court lifted the March 5, 2008 injunction, enabling FWS to now issue this final rule to remove the Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
CBD has not determined at this time whether to appeal the court’s decision.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.