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Bald eagle to fly from endangered species list

DDT ban, aggressive restoration program lead to dramatic rebound

The bald eagle, which has been the US national symbol for 225 years but edged close to extinction more than four decades ago, is expected to be taken off the federal Endangered Species List later this week, reflecting its dramatic rebound after the banning of the pesticide DDT and an aggressive restoration program.

"It will cap a 40-year conservation effort for the bald eagle," said Michael Bean, chairman of the wildlife program at Environmental Defense, an advocacy group. "It's a clear signal that it is possible to bring a species back from the brink of extinction."

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which first proposed taking the eagle off the list in 1999, faces a court-ordered deadline Friday on whether to dislist the eagle. Several environmental groups said they expect the Bush administration to take the eagle off the list, and a spokesman for the US Fish and Wildlife Services did nothing to discourage that belief today.

Nicholas Throckmorton, the spokesman, said the administration would not reveal its position until later in the week, but he pointed out that the eagle's recovery has been well-documented for years.

In 1962, the US had counted just 417 nesting pairs of eagles in the lower 48 states. During the 1980s, US officials set a target of 3,900 nesting pairs as a trigger to remove the bald eagle from the endangered species list. Today, roughly 10,000 nesting pairs are in the lower 48 states.

"Obviously," he said, "we've more than doubled the goal set out by the endangered species program."

Environmental activists said the White House may make the announcement on the bald eagle, but Throckmorton declined to comment.

The endangered species list, which was started in 1973, had 1,314 animal and plant species on it as of today.