Recent Changes in Bald Eagle Management

In July of 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the federal list of threatened species. A 5-year monitoring plan will be coordinated with various state agencies, including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). This plan will involve monitoring bald eagle populations to determine if the species will succeed without federal protection, or if re-listing is necessary.

On the federal level, bald eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These laws primarily protect eagles, their nests, and nest trees from physical harm or disturbance and prohibit possession, sale, or transport of any part of an eagle, its eggs, or nest.

In Washington State, bald eagles are protected by the Bald Eagle Protection Law of 1984, and the Bald Eagle Protection Rules, in addition to the aforementioned federal regulations. The Bald Eagle Protection Rules require preparation of Bald Eagle Management Plans for proposed projects that fall within a Bald Eagle Management Zone (within 800 feet of a nest, or within 250 feet of shoreline if also within 0.5 mile of a nest). Recently, WDFW has down-listed bald eagles from threatened status to sensitive in Washington State, but the aforementioned laws are still in effect. Thus, current WDFW management guidelines must still be followed when a project falls within a Bald Eagle Management Zone, and conditions outlined in previously prepared Bald Eagle Management Plans must be observed, despite the change in federal and state listing status.

In practice, the current effect of federal de-listing is fairly minor. In recent years, WDFW removed timing restrictions as a requirement in Bald Eagle Management Plans. In addition, bald eagles no longer need to be addressed in preparation of Biological Evaluations or Biological Assessments, as required under Section 7(c) of the Endangered Species Act. Recent communication with WDFW staff indicates that on-the-ground bald eagle management and protection in Washington State currently remains unchanged.