Editorial: Eagles set an example

Whidbey Islanders no doubt played a role in helping the American Bald Eagle get taken off the national Endangered Species List last week.

While banning the use of the pesticide DDT was apparently the primary reason eagles rebounded from near extinction, people also did their part.

On Whidbey Island, many homeowners who live around the water’s edge decided to leave tall trees in place because that’s where their local eagles hang out. We have state and county regulations designed to protect eagle nests without eliminating property rights. Many home sites in eagle habitat have been partially cleared in recent years, but a good portion of those homeowners chose to leave as many Douglas firs standing as possible. Today, it’s not unusual to see eagles nesting or perching high above view homes that overlook the water. Eagles have proven to be pretty adaptable if given half a chance.

Islanders who don’t live near the water have done their part in protecting eagles by supporting necessary environmental regulations, using eagles to teach their children the wonders of nature, and not complaining on those rare occasions when an eagle snatches a chicken or cat. It’s a lot easier to get another chicken or cat than it is to replace one of Whidbey Island’s majestic eagles.

We can all take some credit for helping this island’s eagles prosper in recent years. The increase in their numbers has been impressive, with approximately 50 pairs now nesting on Whidbey Island, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s considerably more than there were 20 years ago. Still, eagles remain threatened if not endangered and will require continued nurturing for their population to remain strong in the years ahead.

The rebound of the American Bald Eagle is also an inspiration to those many islanders involved in the effort to save the orca whale, which was recently listed as endangered. Saving the whales won’t be as easy as banning DTT and discouraging the removal of trees, but it can be done. In fact, it has to be done if we want to retain the “great” in the Great Pacific Northwest.

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