Arizona tribes threaten suits over plan to delist eagle 5-11-07

PHOENIX (AP) - Some Arizona tribal leaders are threatening to file
lawsuits over the plan of federal wildlife authorities to delist bald
eagles as endangered species.

The bald eagle is sacred to many Native Americans, and 20 percent of
the animals' 50 breeding areas in Arizona are on Indian land. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest regional director for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, invited 13 Arizona tribes to a hearing Wednesday in
Glendale after the tribes claimed they hadn't been consulted on the
delisting issue.

Tuggle called the meeting so tribes could express concerns and he
could clarify the eagle delisting process, which Fish and Wildlife
first proposed in 1999.

After Tuggle acknowledged that the delisting decision was beyond the
scope of his regional office, tribal leaders increasingly questioned
whether their comments would have any impact.

Tuggle said the decision would be based entirely on scientific findings.

Paul Schmidt, a Fish and Wildlife official from Washington, D.C.,
explained that the agency would protect bald eagles if they are
delisted, but his comments stirred debate about why he wasn't
specifically addressing Arizona's bald eagle population of 43
breeding pairs.

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon
have sued the government, making a case that Arizona's eagles are an
endangered population segment apart from the 20,000 eagles in the
rest of the country that appear to have recovered after being
decimated by pesticides in the 1950s.

Loretta Jackson, preservation officer for the Hualapai Tribe, said
her tribe opposes delisting and saw little purpose in the meeting.

“It seems the decision has already been made, and that doesn't
encourage a two-way dialogue,” she said.

Steve Spangle, Fish and Wildlife's manager for Arizona, said that the
agency received no responses to letters sent to tribal authorities
during the public comment periods over the lengthy delisting process.

Dr. Robin Silver, board chairman of the Center for Biological
Diversity, said biological data support the tribes' view that the eagles
should remain protected.