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Future of Bald Eagles, Ospreys Rise in New Jersey (VIDEO)

New Jersey officials say it’s finally time to remove both birds from the state’s endangered species list.

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NEW JERSEY — It took decades of hard work, partnerships and compassion for the natural world. But the future is finally looking much brighter for bald eagles and ospreys in New Jersey, state officials say.

On Monday, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced that it is proposing to remove bald eagles and ospreys from the state’s endangered species list.

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The rule proposal is based on the finding that “populations of these birds have recovered to the point where the continued existence of these species in the state is no longer at risk,” according to NJDEP officials. The agency is accepting public comment on the rule proposal through August 2.

Things once looked bleak for both bird species in the Garden State due to the widespread use of a dangerous insecticide, DDT, and other threats, including habitat degradation and human disturbance. In the 1970s and early 1980s, New Jersey had only one bald eagle nest: a pair in a remote part of Cumberland County.

But over the past 10 to 15 years — partly due to a federal ban on DDT — things have really taken a turn for the better, officials say.

Recovery efforts in New Jersey began in the early 1980s, with the reintroduction of eagles from Canada and artificial incubation and fostering efforts that began to bear fruit in the 1990s. The number of active nests exceeded 100 for the first time in decades, while in 2012 there were 119. Ten years later the total had more than doubled to 250.

In 2023, New Jersey had a record 267 breeding pairs of bald eagles, of which 255 laid eggs. Today, bald eagles can be found in virtually every part of the state, with the highest numbers along Delaware Bay, which is rich with protected marshes and coastal creeks that provide ideal habitat.

The federal government removed the bald eagle from the endangered species list in 2007, reflecting sharp population increases across the country — although biologists and state officials in New Jersey remained more cautious.

It’s a similar story for ospreys, also known as fish hawks, officials said:

“Also greatly affected by the use of DDT, the number of osprey nests left in the state dropped to about 50 in the early 1970s. In the early 1970s, state biologists began an innovative recovery effort to place young and eggs from nests where DDT was not used as extensively into nests that were not producing young. In addition, they coordinated efforts to provide nesting platforms for the birds, replacing snags and trees that were lost as the coastline continued to develop in the 1950s. In 2023, biologists from NJDEP Fish & Wildlife and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ documented a record 800 occupied osprey nests.”

NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said the dramatic turnaround is a testament to the dedication of countless environmental workers and volunteers, who “monitored nests in all weather conditions, cared for hatchlings and worked tirelessly to educate the public.”

“Thanks to their efforts, today people across the state can get excited at the sight of bald eagles gliding above their enormous treetop nests or ospreys diving into a coastal creek to catch a fish,” LaTourette said.

The commissioner added that the plan is to continue moving forward — not backward — when it comes to protecting bald eagles and ospreys in the Garden State.

“As we celebrate these successes, we must remain vigilant to ensure these species continue to thrive and always remember that endangered species continue to need our help,” said LaTourette.

Kathy Clark, head of NJDEP Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, said the recovery of the two species is a “huge milestone” for the state.

“Many people have worked for years and decades to bring these species back from the brink, including biologists, volunteers and all those who protect and manage habitat for rare wildlife,” Clark said. “This is an achievement for everyone who cares about New Jersey’s natural ecosystems.”

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