Flipping The Bird At America's Symbol

Bald eagle
The beloved symbol of the United States of America is threatened right now. I'm not talking about the juiced-up baseball player, the dollar sign, or the hamburger that's too big to fit into your mouth. I'm talking about the bald eagle.

Long a member of the endangered species list, our American bird is probably going to be kicked out of that club. Forty years ago, the eagle was listed as endangered, and the proud bird has flourished since then. Some people feel it's flourished too well.

Back in 1963, only 417 bald eagle nesting pairs could be found in the lower 48 states. Today, there are approximately 8500 mating pairs in the lower 48. But instead of everybody celebrating the success of conservation and the Endangered Species List, some people feel that since protecting them worked, now we can stop protecting them.

Does this make sense? If we stop protecting them, won't their numbers decrease, and then we'll just have to start protecting them again in the future? Should we also conclude that now that fewer and fewer Americans are dying of various diseases, we should stop giving people vaccines and antibiotics, and wait until more people start dying before we resume treating them?

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got an extension, which will keep the eagle on the endangered list at least until June 29, when a decision about its fate will be made. But most people feel it's just a matter of time before the Department of Interior or the anti-conservationist, pro-building lawsuits will force the Bush administration to remove the eagle from the list.

Doesn't President Bush have enough problems? Does he really want to be in the history books as the president who removed the symbol of America from the Endangered Species list?

Just to make things clear, you hunters can stop licking your lips. Even if the bald eagle is removed from the list, this will not allow the killing of our sacred bird. The Bald and Golden Eagle Act of 1940 will still protect them from hunters. Removing the eagles from the list will "merely" allow what conservationists fear will be the disturbing of the eagle's habitat — and therefore forcing eagles to move elsewhere, and possibly suffer a decline in population.

In other words, builders want to put up condominiums and shopping malls where eagles have their nests or hang out, and they feel these birds can just fly somewhere else and make their homes.

The American Bald Eagle has been our official symbol since 1782. It's been on stamps, government seals, and it's even the logo for the National Rifle Association. I think we should leave the eagles alone, and find another spot for that proposed high rise or another Chuck E. Cheese.

I'd actually like to add things to the endangered list, not make it shorter. There are many other things in our country that are endangered. A few examples are:

  • A movie ticket that costs less than $10.00.
  • A television series that's aimed at adults.
  • Real sugar in the restaurant sugar bowl instead of just artificial sweeteners.
  • Books that aren't about diets or how to become a billionaire.
  • Pro football teams that have more players on the field than in court.
  • Salads that have lettuce in them.
  • Computer programs that come with a manual you can hold in your hands and read.
  • Cops that walk the beat.
It's a slippery slope. We have to hold onto things that are important to us. If we stop protecting the eagle today, tomorrow we may be saying goodbye to rain checks at carwashes.

But some people feel that there are just too many eagles now, and that they've become a nuisance for all of us. Maybe it's just my neighborhood, but I can't remember the last time that a flock of eagles awakened me early in the morning, or messed up my windshield, or that there were so many of them that they blocked out the sun. On the other hand, it's easy for me to remember when I last thought there were too many condos and shopping malls — Just now.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver