Majestic bald eagles not only are the revered symbol of the nation, but living proof- thankfully - that the Endangered Species Act and related state laws are effective.
Under the protection of those laws, bald eagles have rebounded from perilously low numbers nationally and in Pennsylvania - so much so that the state Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management has recommended changing the species' legal status from "threatened" to "protected." Under the law, "threatened" indicates that a species could become endangered in the foreseeable future.
That does not appear to be the case with the bald eagle. When the state began its protection effort in 1983, there were three known nests in the commonwealth, all in western Crawford County. As of last week, the state had 266 confirmed nesting pairs in 60 of 67 counties, up from a confirmed 237 pairs in 2012.
The state's management plan calls for changing the birds' status if four conditions have been met for five consecutive years. Three of those - at least 150 active nests, a 60 percent success rate for confirmed nests, and at least 1.2 successfully hatched eaglets per nest - have been met. The fourth, successful pair in at least 40 counties, will be met this year.
Eagles will remain protected under state and federal law even if the state alters their status. Indeed, vigilance is warranted. As top predators, eagles' health indicates the overall health of the environment.
The eagles' rebound gives new generations the chance to be inspired by their beauty, along with proof that conscientious environment protection works in the long run.