In 1961, John F. Kennedy penned this about the bald eagle: “The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America.”
The bald eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States in 1782. By the late 1930’s, there was already some concern about the status of our magnificent national symbol. Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act (BEPA) in 1940, to regulate the “taking” of bald eagles for any purpose (to hunt, sell, trade, export, import, etc.). BEPA afforded the first legal protection for eagles in the U.S., and in 1962, golden eagles were added to the list of eagles to be protected.
The word, “taking,” covers a lot of territory. BEPA prohibits taking any part of a bald eagle (dead or alive), its nest, eggs, or even its broken eggshells. The law also prohibits the molestation or disturbance of eagles, which includes interfering with their nests, reproduction, lifestyle or shelter, or somehow causing them to abandon their nests. There are some exceptions to BEPA for religious purposes, as many Native American tribes revere eagles and use them in their religious ceremonies, but these cases are limited in number and require a permit.
Despite the passage of BEPA in 1940, the bald eagle was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1967. The pesticide, DDT, had weakened the eagles’ eggshells, and disturbance of their habitat also had contributed to their decreasing numbers. Banning DDT in 1972 and increasing protections for eagle habitat brought bald eagles back in healthy enough numbers that they could be removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
Waiving BEPA to expedite building a border wall is bad news for bald or golden eagles that live or reproduce in proximity to the proposed wall (click here for a list of all 48 laws that have been waived). These eagles are no longer protected from taking; that is, they can now be hunted or captured, their feathers or eggs taken, and their nests destroyed without legal consequence. After almost 80 years of successfully protecting eagles, it is a travesty to abandon them now.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) and let them know that you oppose waiving The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act to expedite construction of a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.