Lawsuit wants bald eagle taken off 'endangered'
By Audrey Hudson THE WASHINGTON
TIMES November 3, 2005
A Minnesota man is suing Interior Department
Secretary Gale A. Norton to remove the bald eagle
from the Endangered Species List, a process that has
stalled since the decision to do so was announced
six years ago by President Clinton.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit in U.S.
District Court of Minnesota yesterday on behalf of
private land owner Edmund Contoski, looking to force
the Bush administration to fulfill its promise to
complete the bureaucratic delisting process by the
end of 2004.
"The Endangered Species List was never intended
to be a permanent home for species. When species are
recovered, the law requires that they be removed
from the list to ensure that taxpayer provided
resources are only being spent on species that truly
need protecting," said the foundation's lawyer,
As long as the bald eagle is on the Endangered
Species List, property owners are required to take
special and expensive steps to comply with
regulations that may no longer be necessary, the
There were fewer than 500 nesting pairs of
eagles when the American symbol was added to the
Endangered Species List in the 1960s. When Mr.
Clinton announced the recovery of the species and
delisting at a Fourth of July press event in 1999,
there were 5,748 nesting pairs. Current estimates
put the eagle's number at more than 8,000 nesting
Posing with an eagle named "Challenger," Mr.
Clinton said in 1999 that the "bald eagle is now
back from the brink, thriving in virtually every
state of the Union."
The lawsuit names Mrs. Norton and H. Dale Hall,
director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and says
delisting of the eagle has been "unreasonably
Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery says
the process became "snared" with questions over how
to protect eagle habitat, which the Bald and Golden
Eagle Protection Act makes illegal to "disturb."
"There is no dispute: The eagles have met the
recovery goals," Mr. Vickery said. "But what does
that mean, 'disturb?' Scaring the bird or changing
its behavior? We're wrestling with some pretty
complicated legal issues."
The species will continue to be protected by two
other federal laws -- and the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act. Mr. Vickery said the process to delist the
eagle will be announced soon and is not in response
to the lawsuit.
The Pacific Legal Foundation is a
property-rights group that supports efforts to
reform the Endangered Species Act, which the
foundation says puts onerous rules on property that
can drastically affect its value.
Mr. Constoski's family has owned property in
Morrison County since 1939 that today has an
appraised value of $425,000, but a nest in the
center of the land prohibits him from building homes
anywhere on his property.