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Bald Eagles make great comeback

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POSTED April 16, 2012 1:40 a.m.

Got an email from one of my readers the other day who told me how much he was enjoying my book, “Tight Lines, Observations of an Outdoor Philosopher”.

Matt also shared how much he enjoyed seeing the Bald Eagles that frequent his ranch. He got me to thinking about the remarkable comeback that eagles and falcons have made in the last few decades. Here are some thoughts on the subject: I too, love the Bald Eagles. They especially are drawn to the big foothill reservoirs where they are expert fishermen. The eagles have made a tremendous comeback in the past 25 or 30 years, since the pesticide DDT was outlawed. When DDT was introduced in 1939, farmers, and health experts thought it was a wonderful product. It killed cockroaches, bedbugs, mosquitoes and all sorts of bugs that both spread disease and destroyed crops. DDT was great at stopping disease and starvation worldwide. They used it in the swamps, mountains, and backyard gardens in cities. Heck, we all used numerous sorts’ pesticides and herbicides everywhere: DDT, Chlordane, and Paraquat were found in every garage & garden shed in America.

Strangely though, over a couple decades of rampant pesticide use, people seemed to notice that they weren’t seeing as many birds anymore, The eagles, and falcons, even the bluebirds and robins were just not as plentiful as they used to be. Finally some bright scientists began to notice that many pesticides made the eggshells of most bird species much thinner. It seems that the mama birds were crushing their own eggs just by sitting on them. The falcons and eagles were becoming extinct!

At the same time, modern science also gave us herbicides that killed weeds that choked crops as well as Nematicides that killed the nematodes attacking tree and vine roots. Crop production went up and food prices in North America were the cheapest in the world! Another added bonus was that the government could use these miracle chemicals to spray on marijuana crops in Mexico, cocoa plantations in South America, and opium poppies in Burma and Afghanistan. The Army even figured out that they could spray an herbicide they called “Agent Orange” on the jungles of Southeast Asia so that enemy soldiers had fewer places to hide & ambush our troops.

Again, there came a day of reckoning, when college students began getting sick from smoking paraquat-laced marijuana. and American GIs started dying from cancers caused by Agent Orange twenty or thirty years earlier. Birth defects and cancer clusters began to increase in farming towns and we discovered that a nematicide called dbcp was showing up in the wells in farm country. Eventually a lady named Rachael Carson wrote a best selling book called “Silent Spring” that described a world where there were no more singing Robins or cooing Doves. The nation began to figure out that while pesticides and herbicides had some great benefits, they could also have some nasty side effects.

We began to be more careful in the use of pesticides and you can’t buy DDT, chlordane or carbon tetrachloride at the supermarket anymore.  We stopped making Agent Orange and Paraquat and began trying to monitor what was in our nation’s drinking water.  Many local health jurisdictions now have occasional amnesty days where citizens can turn in those old poison cans & bottles from their barns and garages. It seems to be paying off, too. Our drinking water is getting cleaner, Our GIs aren’t exposed to Agent Orange anymore and the eagles and falcons are making a great comeback.

Consumers are now getting fruits and vegetables that are healthier for them and a whole new industry, Organic Farming, has sprung up to give consumers a choice.  You can get organic celery and organic carrots and even organic wine and milk. Although the organic foods are more expensive, they are available if you want them. I’m waiting for organic Bourbon! Meanwhile, my friend Matt gets to enjoy seeing magnificent eagles wheeling in the skies overhead.

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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