Arizona's Desert Nesting Bald Eagle Victim of Agency Corruption Again

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Arizona's Desert Nesting Bald Eagle Victim of Agency Corruption Again

From Center for Biological Diversity
March 2010

"President Obama promised that his administration's decisions would be based on science. Department of Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service administrators have obviously not gotten the message."

Newly obtained documents reveal that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bald eagle experts have again been overruled by their political superiors in order to remove Endangered Species Act protection for Arizona's desert nesting bald eagles. An August 24, 2009, memo from Regional Fish and Wildlife Director Benjamin Tuggle to Assistant Fish and Wildlife Director Gary Frazer states that the Arizona population "is discrete and significant" to the bald eagle population as a whole "based on its persistence in an unusual or unique [desert] ecological setting." Tuggle's memo summarizes more than 30 years of biological studies and the consensus of every recognized bald eagle expert.

In a response dated December 4, 2009, Frazer dismisses the experts' opinion, advising that his "…staff will work with you on development of the revised version of the finding. Obviously, the finding should not simply cite my conclusion…"

This scenario is a repeat of the agency's attempts in 2006 and 2007 to remove protection from Arizona's reproductively, geographically, biologically, and behaviorally isolated population of approximately 160 individuals and 60 breeding pairs. In these past attempts, the agency tried to suppress the consensus science presented in an October 6, 2004 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon requesting increased protection for the desert bald eagle distinct population segment (DPS).

On March 5, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia rejected the last agency ruse on the grounds that agency scientists "…received ‘marching orders’ and were directed to find an analysis that fit with a negative 90-day finding on the DPS status of the desert bald eagle."

"Indeed, the record indicates that each time FWS biologists from the FWS’s Arizona Field Office assessed whether listing the desert bald eagle population as a DPS may be warranted, they found that 'no information in [the FWS’s] files refutes' Plaintiffs’ petition…" Judge Murguia added.

"President Obama promised that his administration's decisions would be based on science. Department of Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service administrators have obviously not gotten the message," said Herb Fibel, Maricopa Audubon president.

"For more than three decades, our desert nesting bald eagle has been recognized as unique and significant by every acknowledged eagle expert. The science has not changed, but just as if Bush were still in office, political hacks in DC are trying once again to throw our eagles into the garbage for the benefit of their developer patrons. We will not allow this to happen without an historic fight. We look forward to confronting these bullies in the courtroom and beyond," said Dr. Robin Silver of the Center.