HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Game Commission is considering a proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state’s list of threatened species, and there’s an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter.
On Tuesday, the board voted to open a period of public review for a proposal to upgrade the bald eagle’s status from “threatened” to “protected” in Pennsylvania.
The board still will need to vote once more before it can change the status. It will take public comments into consideration. The change could be approved as early as January.
The proposal to remove the bald eagle from the threatened species list has its roots in a successful restoration program launched by the Game Commission 30 years ago.
In 1983, when the first 12 eaglets were plucked from wild nests in Canada to be raised and released here, Pennsylvania was host to only three bald eagle nests — all in Crawford County in the northwestern corner of the state.
Three decades later, there are more than 271 nests statewide, a clear indication the bald eagle no longer fits the description of a “threatened species,” said Patti Barber, an endangered bird biologist for the Game Commission.
Criteria for removing the bald eagle from the state’s threatened species list are laid out in the Game Commission’s bald eagle management plan. The plan calls for delisting eagles as threatened if all of four criteria are met for five consecutive years.
There must be at least 150 active nests statewide, successful pairs in at least 40 counties, at least a 60 percent success rate of known nests and productivity of at least 1.2 eaglets fledged per successful nest.
Three of those criteria already have been met for a five-year span, and eagles in 2013 will exceed for a fifth straight year the requirement of nesting successfully in at least 40 counties.
If the bald eagle is delisted, it will continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (the Eagle Act), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act.
Those who harm or disturb eagles are subject to a civil penalty of up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine for their first offense, and criminal convictions can result in fines as high as $250,000. Additionally, state penalties include fines of up to $1,500.
Those wishing to submit comments on the proposal to delist the bald eagle may email them to BaldEagleComments<\ BaldEagleComments<\ Bald Eagle Comments, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.