HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners is considering a proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state’s list of threatened species, and there’s an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter.
The board on Tuesday voted to open a period of public review for a proposal to upgrade the bald eagle’s status from “threatened” to “protected” in Pennsylvania.
The board still would need to vote once more before a change in status would occur, and the commissioners in making their decision will be taking public comments into consideration.
Tuesday’s vote puts the proposal on a timeline to be approved as early as January.
The proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state’s threatened species list has its roots in a successful restoration program launched by the Game Commission 30 years ago. In 1983, when the first 12 eaglets were plucked from wild nests in Canada to be raised and released here, Pennsylvania was host to only three bald eagle nests — all of them in Crawford County in the northwestern corner of the state.
Three decades later, there are more than 271 nests statewide. And it’s clear the bald eagle no longer fits the description of a “threatened species” — one that is in danger of becoming endangered throughout its range in Pennsylvania, said Patti Barber, an endangered bird biologist for the Game Commission.
“These birds are doing remarkably well and there certainly is room for their population in Pennsylvania to grow,” Barber said.
Criteria for removing the bald eagle from the state’s threatened species list are laid out in the Game Commission’s bald eagle management plan. The plan calls for delisting eagles as threatened if all of four criteria are met for five consecutive years. There must be at least 150 active nests statewide; successful pairs in at least 40 counties; at least a 60 percent success rate of known nests; and productivity of at least 1.2 eaglets fledged per successful nest.
Three of those criteria already have been met for a five-year span, and eagles in 2013 will exceed for a fifth-straight year the requirement of nesting successfully in at least 40 counties.
Barber said removing bald eagles from the state threatened species list would neither hinder eagle populations in Pennsylvanianor knock off course the species’ comeback here.
If the bald eagle is delisted, the bird will continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (the Eagle Act), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Under the Eagle Act, those who harm or disturb eagles are subject to a civil penalty of up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine for their first offense, and criminal convictions can result in fines as high as $250,000.
Additionally, state penalties for disturbing protected wildlife include fines of up to $1,500 and bolster protection for Pennsylvaniaeagles.
Those wishing to submit comments on the proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state’s threatened species list may send them by email to BaldEagleComments@pa.gov. Those who are without email may mail their written comments to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, ATTN: Bald Eagle Comments, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.