Let the eagle soar

With its majestic wingspan and beautiful white head, the American bald eagle has always been a magnificent national symbol. So the announcement last week—fittingly for the Fourth of July—that it was to be removed from the Endangered Species List was welcome news.

As Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne noted in announcing the delisting, in 1963 there were barely 400 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states, the result of illegal hunting, habitat destruction and the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1972. Today there are more than 10,000 nesting pairs, thanks to conservation efforts.

And to the Endangered Species Act, which gave the bird the protection it needed. Make no mistake, that much-maligned act is the principle reason our national symbol has been restored to health.

About 1,000 species of animals and plants remain on the list. Efforts to weaken the ESA or eliminate it altogether continue. The law could benefit from respectful reform, but fundamentally it’s sound. It’s compelled us to make room for the bald eagle and other species, and that’s ultimately to our benefit as well as theirs.