There is nothing I enjoy more than counting the eagles with my two little boys as we travel up the Mississippi River.  And this week we celebrated an achievement that will allow me to count eagles with my grandchildren as well.  We have reinstated a healthy Bald Eagle population in the lower 48 states.

In the 1960s, the American Bald Eagle faced near extinction due primarily to widespread use of the pesticide DDT after World War II, which accumulated in eagles and caused them to lay eggs with weakened shells.  In 1963 there were just about 400 nesting pairs in the entire lower 48 states.  The American Bald Eagle was one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act when it was enacted in 1973, and after decades of conservation efforts, the lower 48 states today are home to nearly 10,000 nesting pairs, a 25-fold increase over the last 40 years.

Now that the bird has been delisted and its population stabilized, existing statutes like the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act will remain in place to protect the bird.  I have been personally involved in ensuring that these statutes are adequate, petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year to be forward-looking in their protections to prevent habitat destruction or other actions that could endanger the Bald Eagle over the long term.

This bird is so much more than just an important part of our nation's ecosystem - it represents our identity as a nation.  The declassification of the American Bald Eagle as an endangered species is a testament to the hard work of many, and the crucial protections provided to it by the Endangered Species Act.  While this action marks a great accomplishment, it is also important to maintain high protections for this bird so it can continue to flourish across the nation for future generations to enjoy.

With the success of the cooperative conservation efforts and a strong commitment to protecting these birds at every level of government, I am confident the Bald Eagle will stay off of the Endangered Species List for good.