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DOI Peregrine Falcon Announcement



Press Release        Contact: Cindy Hoffman
Embargoed for release         202/208-3008 
August 25, 1998               Mitch Snow
                              202/208-5634
     
                  The Peregrine Falcon Is Back! 
             Babbitt Announces Proposal To Remove 
       World's Fastest Bird From Endangered Species List
     
         The world's fastest bird has pulled out of a dive toward extinction and
once again is soaring.  The peregrine falcon is expected to be removed from the 
endangered species list according to a proposal announced today by Interior 
Secretary Bruce Babbitt, marking one of the most dramatic success stories of the
Endangered Species Act.
     
         "Every American should be proud," Babbitt said. "In 25 years, the 
people of the United States have rescued this awesome raptor from the brink of 
extinction. We have proved that a strong Endangered Species Act can make a 
difference.  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."
     
         The peregrine once ranged throughout much of North America from the 
subarctic boreal forests of Alaska and Canada south to Mexico. A medium-sized 
raptor, the falcon nests on tall cliffs or urban skyscrapers and hunts other 
birds for food, reaching speeds of 200 miles an hour as it dives after its prey.
While those nesting in the lower latitudes travel shorter distances, if at all, 
peregrines nesting in Alaska and Canada are well known for their long spring and
fall migratory flights to and from wintering areas in Latin and South America.
     
         The bird's remarkable speed and agility, however, could do nothing to 
prevent its sharp decline after World War II when widespread use of the 
pesticide DDT and other organocholorine pesticides decimated populations.   The 
pesticide DDT caused peregrines to lay thin-shelled eggs that break during 
incubation.
     
         U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers, learning of studies being 
conducted in Great Britain on the link between DDT and egg shell thinning, 
confirmed these findings on peregrines in the United States.  Rachel Carson, a 
former Service employee, helped alert the public to the hazards of pesticides on
wildlife in 1962 when she published her book Silent Spring.  Ten years later, 
the Environmental Protection Agency took the historic and at the time, very 
controversial step of banning the use of DDT in the United States, which was the
first step on the road to recovery for the peregrine.
     
         In 1970, the Service listed the American peregrine falcon as endangered
under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, the predecessor of the 
current law, when the population in the eastern United States was wiped out and 
the populations in the west had declined by as much as 80 to 90 percent below 
historical levels.  By 1975, the population reached an all time low of 324 
nesting pairs in North America.  
     
         The banning of DDT made the recovery of the peregrine falcon possible. 
But the protections provided by the Endangered Species Act and the extraordinary
efforts of the Service, in partnership with state wildlife agencies, 
universities, private ornithological groups, and individuals, accelerated the 
pace of recovery through captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts and 
the protection of nest sites during the breeding season. Similar efforts took 
place in Canada, where the Canadian Wildlife Service and Provincial agencies 
took the lead in a major captive breeding and reintroduction program.  
Currently, there are at least 1,593 peregrine breeding pairs in the United 
States and Canada, well above the overall recovery goal of 631 pairs.
     
         "It would have been hard to imagine this day back in the 1970s when 
there were so few peregrines left, but it shows how effective a law the 
Endangered Species Act is when allowed to work as it was intended," Babbitt 
said. 
     
         Although a final determination to delist the peregrine would remove it 
from the Act's protection, it would still be protected by the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act. The MBTA prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation, 
and importation of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, and nests except when 
specifically authorized by the Interior Department, such as in the case of 
regulated hunting seasons for game birds. 
     
         In addition, the Service will work with state wildlife agencies to 
monitor the status of the species for a minimum of five years, as required by 
the Endangered Species Act. If it becomes evident during this period that the 
bird again needs the Act's protection, the Service would relist the species.
     
         Secretary Babbitt announced the proposal to delist the peregrine falcon
at Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Georgia.  Service Director Jamie Rappaport 
Clark made a simultaneous announcement of the proposal at The Peregrine Fund's 
World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Founded in 1970 at Cornell 
University, the Fund helped lead the way toward recovery with a highly 
successful captive breeding program.
     
         Overall, government and private raptor experts have reintroduced more 
than 6,000 falcons into the wild since 1974. Some of the reintroductions took 
place in urban areas after researchers discovered that the falcons have 
successfully adapted to nesting on skyscrapers where they can hunt pigeons and 
starlings.
     
        State wildlife agencies also played a fundamental role in the recovery 
process by protecting nesting habitat, carrying out releases, and monitoring 
populations within their borders.
     
         "The recovery of the peregrine has been a model of partnership in the 
conservation and recovery of an endangered species," Clark said. "Our agency 
could never have reached this day by ourselves. We needed the help of many 
organizations and individuals to bring about the recovery."
     
         The Service's proposal to delist the peregrine falcon will be published
in the Federal Register on August 26, 1998.  The public may comment on the 
proposal in writing until November 23, 1998. Comments should be sent to: Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 
2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003.
     
     
                              -FWS-
     
     
    **Editors' note: B-roll and still photographs of peregrine falcons are 
available.  Interviews with Service employees and other pioneers in the falconry
community are also available.  Press materials are available on the Service's 
website at www.fws.gov
     
     
     
     
     
     


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