Montana man charged with violating protection of bald eagle and golden eagle, migratory bird treaty laws – Mitchell Republic
RAPID CITY — A Montana man faces federal charges in South Dakota after allegedly receiving and selling bald eagles and other protected avian species in violation of multiple protective laws put in place by Congress.
Harvey Hugs, 59, of Hardin, Montana, pleaded not guilty on July 18 to a federal indictment alleging he violated sections of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey and the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, on more than one occasion between August 20, 2020 and March 3, 2021, Hugs knowingly received, transported, and sold bald eagles and golden eagles. The indictment alleges that Hugs should have known the birds were protected and that they were taken, possessed and sold in violation of federal regulations.
The charges further allege that Hugs, in defiance of the penalties of the law, bartered and sold bald eagles and golden eagles in their entirety as well as in individual parts.
Following the entry of a not guilty plea, Hugs was released on bail pending a trial date, which has been set for September 20. If convicted, he could be sentenced to serve up to five years in federal custody, spend an additional three years on supervised release, ordered to pay fines of up to $250,000, pay a special assessment of $100 $ to the Federal Fund for Victims of Crime and to pay any restitution that may be ordered.
Despite past threats, America’s bald eagle population is thriving
One of the largest birds of prey, the bald eagle lives across a wide expanse of land, including most of the United States and Canada, as well as northern Mexico. They have long served as a symbol of patriotism since 1782 when they were designated the official bird of America.
In the mid-1900s, bald eagle populations across the United States began to decline rapidly due to habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and contamination of its food source. by a once-popular chemical insecticide called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT.
Realizing the plight the species faced, Congress took multi-faceted steps over several decades to ensure bald eagle populations were protected from further decline, passing the Bald Eagle Protection Act. in 1940, which prohibited the killing, sale or possession of the species.
In 1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) noted that there were only 417 breeding pairs of bald eagles left in the country. It wasn’t until four years later that bald eagles would be listed as an endangered species in the United States by the Secretary of the Interior.
Following the banning of DDT in 1972 and wider recognition of humanity’s environmental impacts in the 1960s and 1970s, bald eagle populations began to recover. In 1997, the FWS announced that bald eagles could be removed from the endangered species list, instead of being labeled as threatened. In 2007, their threatened species status was also removed.
More recently, a 2021 update from the FWS announced that 2019 surveys found the species had made a remarkable recovery, quadrupling since 2007, with nearly 314,000 bald eagles.
“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the best-known conservation success stories of all time,” reads an FWS webpage on bald eagles. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol flourishes.”
Despite the species’ significant recovery, it remains protected under what is now known as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a similar law that regulates the taking and possession of certain birds. migrants.
Although the extent to which these acts are violated is unknown, between 2006 and 2016, FWS officers documented 90 violations of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act.