AUGUSTA, Maine — A legislative committee endorsed removing the bald eagle from Maine’s list of protected species on Thursday but, just in case, also recommended tougher penalties for killing one of the beloved birds.
Members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted unanimously to recommend passage of LD 66 to remove the “threatened” status affixed to the eagle in Maine. Biologists have documented more than 470 nesting pairs of eagles in the state, up from fewer than 30 in the 1970s.
The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife brought forward the delisting bill with the support of environmental groups, including Maine Audubon. The federal government removed the eagle from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
Eagles still will be protected from harm by various federal laws, including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But committee members wanted to send a clear message that declaring the species as “recovered” in Maine doesn’t mean it’s OK to kill them.
They voted to do that by keeping it a Class D crime — punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine — to kill an eagle under state law even though the birds are no longer considered threatened.
The bill now heads to the full Legislature for consideration.