Current Conservation Efforts
In 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed removing the bald eagle from the list of federally endangered and threatened species. This action was finalized in August 2007. Although the bald eagle is no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act, it is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The USFWS (2007b) has redefined some of the terminology included in the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits the take of bald eagles without a permit, including their nests or eggs. This legislation defines "take" to mean to "pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb" an eagle. The new definition of "disturb" is to "agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to the degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior" (USFWS 2007b). The FWC Bald Eagle Management Plan adopts the federal definition of "disturb" in 50 C.F.R. § 22.3 and Florida's definition of "take" in Rule 68A-1.004, F.
Historic Conservation Efforts
Substantial monitoring, management, and research activities have been conducted on Florida's bald eagles for more than 60 years resulting in many journal articles and reports being published. Since the 1972-1973 nesting season, all known nesting territories are monitored annually by use of aircraft to determine reproductive parameters such as territory occupancy, brood size, breeding productivity, and reproductive success. Eggs laid by eagles in Florida were used to successfully reestablish populations in other states during the 1970s and 1980s (Nesbitt and Collopy 1985). Wildlife rehabilitation centers in Florida have successfully treated and released hundreds of sick or injured bald eagles, while eagles with permanent injuries have provided opportunities for public education, lobbying, and fundraising. Many of these conservation activities are anticipated to continue following the eagle's removal from the list of federally endangered and threatened species.
Several federal and state laws have directly or indirectly protected bald eagles. The most important laws include the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as state regulations noted in this document. The bald eagle was first protected nationally in 1918 under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-711), which protected nearly all native birds and their nests. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (16 U.S.C. 668a-668c) offered additional protection against take and disturbance of bald eagles and their nests. In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all domestic use of the pesticide Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT). This prohibition allowed bald eagle populations to recover from pesticide poisoning. The following year, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544) was passed, and the bald eagle was added to the list of federally endangered and threatened species in 1978.
Bald eagle nesting habitats in Florida have been protected primarily through the Endangered Species Act in accordance with habitat management guidelines in the southeastern United States (USFWS 1987). These federal guidelines created buffers around eagle nests in which activities such as development or logging were restricted. Two buffer zones were recommended: a primary zone (from the nest to as near as 750 and as far as 1,500 feet away) and a secondary zone (from 1,500 feet to one mile beyond the end of the primary zone). Recently, the USFWS (2007b) published new federal guidelines that recommend a buffer zone that extends up to 660 feet from the nest depending upon whether a visual screen of vegetation exists around the nest, and the presence of existing activities in the vicinity of the nest. Additional recommendations have also been proposed for activities occurring during the nesting season.
Florida also had state regulations that protect the bald eagle. The eagle was listed as threatened and therefore received protections afforded it by Rule 68A-27.004 of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), which prohibited the take or harassment of eagles or their nests by those without a permit. There are local and state regulations tied to the listing category of a species. The Florida Land and Water Management Act of 1972 indirectly protected some eagle habitats by establishing two state programs: Development of Regional Impact and Area of Critical State Concern. The Area of Critical State Concern Program regulates development in areas of regional or statewide natural significance, such as Apalachicola Bay, the Green Swamp, Big Cypress Swamp, and the Florida Keys. The bald eagle is listed as a species of "greatest conservation need" in the Florida Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (FWC 2005). This is not a legal designation but instead makes conservation work on the bald eagle eligible for State Wildlife Grant funds to address the need for continued management and monitoring activities.
State water management districts and local governments provided additional layers of protection for bald eagles. Local regulations emphasize listed species (endangered, threatened, or species of special concern) and their habitats when considering comprehensive planning, zoning, development review, and permitting activities. Prioritization of listed species, requirements for surveys and documentation, increased buffer zones, protection of upland habitats, additional mitigation requirements, more intensive levels of review, and coordination and compliance with appropriate federal and state wildlife agencies are some of the procedures that local governments and state wildlife agencies apply to listed species.
(1) Taken from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Bald Eagle Management Plan (adopted April 9, 2008). View the Management Plan .
FWC [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]. 2005. Wildlife legacy initiative: Comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL.
Nesbitt, S.A., and M.W. Collopy. 1985. Raptor research and management in Florida: Bald eagles. Eyas 8: 26-28.
USFWS [United States Fish and Wildlife Service]. 1987. Habitat management guidelines for the bald eagle in the southeast region. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.
USFWS. 2007b. National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.