Welcome back, baldy!

 

  • Image by US Fish and Wildlife Service/Mike Lockhart, via Wikimedia Commons

It's not often in this state that we get to report some good news about the environment. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the number of bald eagles nesting in Indiana has reached record levels:

A state-record 119 nests were considered to be occupied by eagle pairs, based on the presence of eagles observed or reported this year or on the condition of the nest indicating recent attendance. These 119 territories compares to the previous record 101 territories found in 2008 and 94 in 2009.

Bald eagles called Indiana home for who knows how long before the state's wetlands were drained, and industrial pesticides poisoned all the fish that the eagles ate. Until recently, the last nests in Indiana were observed in the 1890s. Wintering populations continued to decline through most of the 20th Century — until the state banned old-style pesticides, and undertook species restoration efforts (notably with the state's first ever species restoration project, begun in 1985). Successful nests in the Hoosier state were once again observed by 1991.

Nothing but good news here, to be sure. But let's not get too cocky. The DNR says most nests have been observed along the White, Wabash and Ohio Rivers. We may have banned old-school industrial pesticides — a good thing — but it's no secret these very waterways are anything but clean.

As we've noted before, Indiana led the nation in toxic, industrial waste poured into waterways in 2007, According to Environment America. And as recently as last summer, we saw toxic algae blooms in Geist Reservoir and the White River, often the result of phosphate-based fertilizer run-off. Recent NUVO reporting has drawn attention to links between childhood developmental problems and mercury pollution along the Ohio River, and to coal ash pollution in our protected wetlands.

The state should be commended for its success in bring our proud, National Bird back to Indiana. But as good hosts, it's a good rule of thumb not to poison one's guests. Now that baldy's come home, let's make sure he stays home.

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