Saturday, June 23, 2007

Good News Soars On Eagles Wings

When I was a youngster seeing the majestic Bald Eagle was a real treat that made you stop in your tracks. This was true because it was a rare event. Today, while I still feel a tinge of wonderment - seeing a Bald Eagle is not so miraculous.

Right here in town I can drive down a major highway on my way to work and see a nesting pair no more than 60 yards from the road. This is the third year they have successfully raised eaglets within shouting distance of a bumper to bumper traffic jam.

In the lower 48 Minnesota tops the list with 1,312 known nesting pairs, followed by Florida with 1,133 pairs and Wisconsin's 1,065 pairs. It comes as no surprise that since I live in Minnesota and am a mere 15 miles from Wisconsin that I chance to see eagles regularly.

The Eagle is a truly national bird and has nesting pairs in every state in the lower 48 - nearly 9,800 of them in total. In Alaska the Bald Eagle was never in danger and are as common as crows. It is estimated that there are 40,000+ breeding pairs in the 49th state!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to remove the bald eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. To ensure the eagle will be protected upon delisting, the Service is working to finalize the definition of "disturb" and the bald eagle management guidelines under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Service is to make a decision on delisting the bald eagle by June 29, 2007. Many land owners eagerly await this date because their property is useless under the current rules.

It was the Bald Eagle for the most part that created the whole environmental movement in this country. As it is with many, many things in life, with environmentalism bad came with the good. There's little doubt that a growing awareness of how polluted we were letting our air, water and land become by the 1960's was a good thing. Land conservation and some environmental regulations have gone a long way toward making America a cleaner, more beautiful place to live. High technology has played it's part as well, but who is to say that without awareness and horn blowers that our culture would have focused so well on cleaning up our filthy output.

The detrimental effects of this environmental "awakening" have come about not by people with pure intentions but those who use lies and shaky science to drive an agenda. The agenda is almost always an attack on capitalism when it is truly examined. Global Warming is the at the very pinnacle of this hucksterism. In the foothills it was a small book written by a biologist and writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rachel Carson, it is said, became aware of the dangers of chemical pesticides in the decline of eagle populations, including DDT, but was also aware of the controversy within the agricultural community which needed such pesticides to support crop production. Carson made the decision to produce her book "Silent Spring" after years of research.

It's hard to say if Carson was a pawn or not but the truth about DDT was never told. Banning DDT, which it turned out was the cheapest safest way of prevent millions of deaths due to malaria, should have been treated as a crime against humanity.

In 1971 during the EPA hearings on the banning of DDT Dr. J. Gordon Edwards asserted that DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man. DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man. The uses of DDT under the regulations involved did not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife. This flew right in the face of the most well-known allegation about DDT - that the insecticide supposedly caused declines in the populations of birds such as the Bald Eagle.

Edwards knew this was a lie. Bald Eagle populations had declined decades before DDT had ever been used. Actually, eagle populations were rebounding during the years of peak DDT use, according to bird counts.

Nonetheless DDT was banned by then EPA administrator William Ruckleshaus. Dr. Edwards investigated and uncovered disturbing statements and troubling connections between Ruckleshaus and anti-DDT environmental extremist groups. The fact that Ruckleshaus had made up his mind to ban DDT regardless of the facts is increased by his refusal of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act to turn over the documentation on which the ban was based.

Amazingly, just as critics of the "consensus" science on Global Warming are called deniers and are accused of being in the back pockets of the oil companies Dr. Edwards was also accused of being a "paid scientist". He was no such thing.

Before his death in 2004 he saw an about face by the New York Times and his nemesis, publisher Mr. Sulzberger, when they ran a pro-DDT editorial on Dec. 23, 2002 ("Fighting Malaria with DDT), a pro-DDT op-ed column on Aug. 7, 2003 (Is there a place for DDT?") and a pro-DDT New York Times Magazine article on April 11, 2004. ("What the World Needs Now is DDT").

Since then, there has been growing awareness for the need to rehabilitate DDT's image. Public health professionals and non-governmental organizations, notably Africa Fighting Malaria, stepped up efforts to increase the use of DDT. Alas, criminal charges will never be brought against busy-body do-gooders in the West who pushed to have DDT banned world-wide - they nearly succeeded and millions died.

Despite good old Ben Franklin's desire to relegate the Bald Eagle to scoundrel status (in favor of the truly awe inspiring Wild Turkey) I am glad this handsome bird is our national symbol. It was not the Bald Eagles fault it was used as a pawn - a role ill suited for this regal bird of prey.



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