Peregrine falcon to be taken off endangered species list Restrictions on DDT, nest protection credited

August 25, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

The peregrine falcon will be removed from the endangered species list, according to a proposal to be announced today by Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the Department of the Interior.

"In 25 years, the people of the United States have rescued this awesome raptor from the brink of extinction," he said yesterday. "We have proved that with a strong Endangered Species Act, we don't have to stand idly by and watch our wildlife go extinct. We can bring species back. We have proved it with the peregrine falcon."

Eleven breeding pairs of peregrine falcons live in Maryland and at least 1,593 breeding pairs in North America. That's compared with North America's all-time low of 324 breeding pairs in 1975. Peregrine populations began dying after World War II with the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides.

Babbitt credited the peregrines' comeback to restrictions placed the use of DDT, the prohibition of falconry, the protection of nesting sites and successful efforts to breed falcons in captivity.

"It's a terrific critter and kind of a neat success," he said.

At least one environmentalist, however, said the removal of the peregrine falcon from the endangered species list might be premature. "We welcome the de-listing of any species that has actually been recovered," said Laurie Macdonald, national chairwoman of the Endangered Species and Habitats Committee for the Sierra Club. "We would certainly have a worry that this might be premature."

Rick Blom, a Bel Air bird-watcher who has published several books on birding, said peregrines are in danger not because they are being removed from the endangered species list, but because "pesticide levels in peregrines have been rising the last four years."

He said peregrines feast on shorebirds in northern South America, where DDT has not been banned. "There are future risks," he said.

But Vincent Muehter, associate director of conservation for the Audubon Society, greeted Babbitt's announcement with optimism. "In general, Audubon feels that it's time to claim successes, particularly on species that are seeing real resurgences," he said. He said conservationists can spend more time on species that still are endangered.

After the bird's removal from the list, the federal government will continue to monitor the progress of the peregrine for at least five years to make sure it continues to survive without government help.

Babbitt said he hopes other endangered species will continue to recover.

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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