By Tony Schick
The life of an eagle is worth $41.67 in the U.S. District Court in Portland.
Last month, Judge Michael W. Mosman sentenced Thomas Valentino Adams to one year of probation and a $250 fine after Adams, found in possession of three bald and three golden eagle carcasses, pled guilty to charges of “knowingly or with wanton disregard taking, possessing, and transporting a bald or American eagle.”
This case began in 2009 when Adams, 41, and a friend were spotted on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation hunting eagles, or at least appearing to. (Tribal police noticed fresh blood and a large wing imprint on fresh snow)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents later gained a search warrant of Adams’ home and used DNA analysis to confirm blood found there was from six different eagles. Adams had claimed the blood was from a goose.
Bald eagles were an endangered species in the U.S. until 2007, after a decades-long conservation effort brought them back from nearly disappearing. Both they and golden eagles remain federally protected under The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The act authorizes fines of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.
Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, said he’s seen federal courts repeatedly fail to penalize in a way he thinks is appropriate for crimes against wildlife. Bald eagles, he said, at one time required huge community and government efforts to recover.
“It might be hard to put a price on the value of these birds, but we know they’re worth a hell of a lot more than $42,” Sallinger said. “There’s a community value in ensuring these crimes aren’t repeated. You want to send the message that there are repercussions to taking a protected species.”
So why did the court fine Adams just $250 for killing six birds of iconic and federally protected species?
Ryan Bounds, Assistant U.S. Attorney, didn’t recommend a fine in the government’s sentencing memorandum. He said fines are rare in these kinds of cases. Defendants often don’t have the means to pay them. More....