I am fortunate enough to have grown up going to a family cabin on a lake in Minnesota. At an early age I fell in love with the state bird, the loon. I remember purchasing my first loon call in hopes of luring them close for a good photograph. It took much effort and determination in order to get a good shot, but eventually I did. This past weekend, on the same lake where a loon was a rare sight, I saw twenty-three loons, three eagles, a number of sparrows and seagulls, and another unique bird. Clearly nature has made a come back on this lake, as it has on numerous throughout the United States.
The eagles living on our lake were once in danger of extinction. I remember learning about the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the governments response to environmental and conservation concerns. The bald eagle was the poster child for the program. Today I see them perched above our cabin in the trees, searching for their next meal. Some people would look at this and think we have achieved our goal and can move on. This is simply not true. While we may have saved a number of endangered animals, the work is not done. If we stop fighting to protect nature and its inhabitants we will only revert back to a state when seeing an eagle is a rare opportunity.
Until recently, nature was visible in the form of zoos and sanctuaries. When I was in my teens I had the opportunity to camp in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. While there I encountered the most amazing wildlife. There was a turtle the size of a basketball, dozens of loons, and water clear enough to see the bottom of the lake. This kind of beauty is hard to find outside of state parks and protected areas. Unfortunately without the support of regulations like the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act, they are under threat of development and deterioration from industries like mining.
We have come so far from the 1970's when the quality of our environment was at its lowest. Lakes and rivers were so polluted, fish were all but gone. Some even started on fire. Now, many agencies are returning these assets to swim-able standards. Instead of polluting them, we are building parks next to them. Chicago, a city with a river so polluted they reversed the flow to get the contaminants out of the city, is about to reopen their waters to swimming and water sports. The fish population in the Mississippi River was nearly extinct, but now is home to thriving aquatic life.
I would hate to see such ground breaking legislation reversed, opening up the flood gates for harmful development and action. Just because we have reversed the devastation from previous generations does not mean we can quit. Regulations should always be in place to protect the wildlife that cannot protect themselves. I look forward to seeing more eagles flying overhead as I look out onto a beautiful lake.