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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1/29/03
03/7

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 633-1496
or Al Ivany
(609) 984-1795

DEP'S ANNUAL BALD EAGLE COUNT KICKS OFF YEARLONG CELEBRATION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

(03/7) TRENTON --- This month, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) used its annual two-day bald eagle count to kick off a yearlong awareness campaign marking the thirtieth anniversary of New Jersey's Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. In addition, the DEP selected the bald eagle as the first in a series of monthly profiles on New Jersey's endangered species.

"New Jersey's Endangered Species Act is landmark legislation that has forever changed the way we manage our wildlife and natural habitats," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Despite its continued endangered status, the bald eagle is one of New Jersey's great success stories in endangered species protection and management."

Prior to 1982, the number of bald eagles had plummeted statewide - fewer than 10 bald eagles were observed in the State's initial annual survey in 1978 - as hunting early in the century and extensive pesticide use in later decades decimated the eagle population. Beginning in 1982, the DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife (Fish and Wildlife) engaged in a comprehensive strategy to address the situation, helping the State reduce the use of many pesticides that weaken eagle eggs and acquiring 60 bald eagles from Canada to form the nucleus of a new breeding population.

"Unfortunately, safeguards for endangered species are once again under attack at the federal level," said Campbell. "The Governor's anti-sprawl initiatives acknowledge the importance of protecting endangered species by preserving critical habitat from overdevelopment."

As part of the yearlong celebration of species conservation, the DEP will focus each month on a different threatened or endangered species found in New Jersey. In New Jersey, the bald eagle breeding population living here year-round is listed as endangered, while the wintering population is threatened.

Today, populations of wintering and breeding eagles continue to climb steadily statewide, with the number of known breeding pairs rising from a low of one in 1982 to 34 in 2002.

As part of the eagle population monitoring, Fish and Wildlife coordinates an annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey every January, which focuses on known eagle wintering areas throughout New Jersey, including the upper Delaware River, most of the major reservoirs, and the South Jersey river systems.

This year, over 75 volunteers counted 137 bald eagles and five golden eagles. The count is lower than previous years' observations - volunteers counted 165 bald eagles in 2002 and 140 in 2001 - yet Fish and Wildlife biologists say that this likely is a random result of weather conditions and not reflective of any drop in the total population.

New Jersey's Endangered and Nongame Species Act was signed into law on December 14, 1973, two weeks before President Nixon signed the federal Endangered Species Act. The law is designed to protect species whose survival in New Jersey is imperiled by loss of habitat, over-exploitation, pollution, or other impacts. New Jersey currently lists more than 35 species as endangered and more than 25 species as threatened.

For more information on each month's featured endangered species and updates about coming conservation events, visit the DEP's website at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep.

 

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