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Feds no longer consider Arizona's bald eagles endangered 6-29-07

PHOENIX (AP) - A federal official has removed North American bald eagles from the endangered species list but made no special provision for Arizona's relatively few eagles.

Gov. Janet Napolitano on Wednesday had asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to make an exception and keep Arizona's smaller, lighter eagles under the protections of the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

Napolitano argued that Arizona's tribal governments, which opposed delisting Arizona eagles, had not adequately been consulted.

Kempthorne on Thursday announced delisting the nearly 11,000 breeding pairs of bald eagles as endangered in the lower 48 states.

By comparison, Arizona's smaller, lighter desert-nesting bald eagles number 43 pairs. Twenty percent of the state's nearly 50 eagle-breeding grounds are located on Indian communities.

The delisting announcement also ignored an unresolved lawsuit filed by Arizona conservationists asking that Southwestern bald eagles be reviewed for designation as an endangered population.

Bryan Arroyo, acting assistant director for endangered species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said no special protection has been retained for Arizona's bald eagles.

“We look at the population nationally and by region, and we felt that in the region we had an appropriate number of eagles,” Arroyo said.

He added that the Arizona bald eagle population did not meet criteria for protection as a distinct population segment, an issue that is the subject of a lawsuit filed against the government by Arizona conservationists.

“This delisting is a tragedy for the desert-nesting bald eagle because now there is no protection for its habitat,” said Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The center joined with the Maricopa Audubon Society in filing the lawsuit, which contends the government ignored scientific data in deciding to deny protection to Arizona bald eagles.

An Aug. 3 court date has been set.
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