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GLIN==> The Peregrine Falcon is Back!



The Peregrine Falcon Is Back!
Babbitt Announces Removal of World's Fastest Bird From Endangered Species
List

Today, the world's fastest bird soars off of the endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the peregrine falcon from the
list of endangered and threatened species, marking one of the most dramatic
success stories of the Endangered Species Act.

"It's a spectacular summer for America's great birds, the bald eagle, the
Aleutian Canada goose and today the peregrine falcon," said the Secretary of
the Interior, Bruce Babbitt. "And beneath the wings of all their recovery
stands America's great law: the Endangered Species Act."

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 migrate shorter distances, if at
all, peregrines nesting in Alaska and Canada are well known for their long
spring and fall 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 broke during incubation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers confirmed the link between DDT
and egg
shell thinning 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 made the historic and, at the
time,  controversial decision to ban 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 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 had completely disappeared  and
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
partnership efforts of the Service and state wildlife agencies,
universities, private ornithological groups, and falcon enthusiasts
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
1,650 peregrine breeding pairs in the United States and Canada, well above
the overall recovery goal of 631 pairs.

"The peregrine falcon is a perfect example of the success we can have when
we work in partnership to recover endangered species," said Secretary
Babbitt.  "With the help of the protections provided by the Endangered
Species Act, and the visionary work in captive breeding and release efforts
by The Peregrine Fund, the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center and the
University of California's Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, the
peregrine flies through the skies of almost every state in the Union."

The peregrine falcon joins the southeastern population of the brown pelican,
the American alligator, the Rydberg milk-vetch, and the gray whale as
graduates of the endangered species list.

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.

The peregrine will continue to 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.

The Service has continued the prohibition on the take of peregrines for all
purposes until management guidelines are developed in coordination with the
States.  The Office of Migratory Birds has issued a letter to all affected
permit holders to alert them of this amendment to their permits.  The
Service is working with the states to develop
management plans for the take of peregrines for falconry purposes.

In addition, the Service will work with state wildlife agencies,
conservation organizations
and others to monitor the status of the species.  The Endangered Species Act
requires that a species be monitored for a minimum of 5 years after
delisting. The Service has decided to monitor the  peregrine falcon for 13
years with surveys occurring once every 3 years, allowing for 5 surveys, to
provide data that will reflect the status of at least two generations of
peregrines. If it becomes evident during this period that the bird again
needs the Act's protection, the Service would relist the species.

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," Babbitt said. "I hope that the success
of the peregrine will inspire other communities to come together to protect
and recover other vulnerable species."

The Service's decision to delist the peregrine falcon will be published in
the Federal
Register on August 25, 1999. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the
principal
Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish,
wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the
American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife
Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges,
thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also
operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management
assistance offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency
enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act,
manages
migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal
Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

-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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