The return of the bald eagles

Photo: Scott Parent

Bald eagles were once common across most of Turtle Island, including the Great Lakes. Though, they were nearly extirpated in the region by the 1970s, with less than 10 breeding pairs remaining in Southern Ontario. Their populations collapsed during the middle of the last century because of the widespread use of the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, more commonly known as DDT, in the 1940s.

By the mid-1940s, scientists began to understand the very same properties that made DDT a powerful insecticide were also extremely harmful to wildlife, humans and the environment. Not only does it spread easily, and get into the soil, water and living tissues, but it also persists for decades. DDT poisoned the nervous systems of birds, causing die-offs at nesting sites close to where it was sprayed. Over time, the chemical also accumulated in the bodies of apex predators like the bald eagle, resulting in fragile egg shells that would break while under incubation of the parents. By the 1980s there were merely three nesting bald eagle pairs remaining in Southern Ontario.

Bald eagle populations have made an impressive recovery in recent years. After a half-century of conservation efforts, the Ontario government made their recovery official by announcing that an expert committee had deemed them no longer at risk, in May 2023.

The bald eagle’s return in Southern Ontario indicates that DDT is gradually fading from the waters they feed in. This is good news for us, too. Once thought to be safe for humans in low doses, evidence today proves the chemical is linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer, and can persist for generations.

What happened to bald eagles is a warning of what can happen if we fail to take good care of the environment. Their recovery is a welcome win for conservation efforts.

Legal Personhood for the Humber River?

Photo: Swim Drink Fish

The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, in collaboration with Humber River Calling — a Biinaagami Great Lakes Community member, is seeking to restore the health of the Cobechenonk (Humber River) by fighting for its legal personhood

“The Mississaugas of the Credit have long revered water for the life-giving benefits it provides to the treaty lands and territory of the First Nation. A living being, each water body exudes its own personality as it seeks to fulfil its responsibilities to the rest of Creation. Just as water has

nurtured the well-being of Creation, so must humans seek to reciprocate their relationship to the

water and promote its use with an ethos of respect and thanksgiving,” reads the press release.

This move comes following other successful legal personhood cases such as that brought forward for the Magpie River in Quebec in 2021. Through taking this step, the Missisaugas of the Credit First Nation hopes that similar recognition of the Cobechenonk as a legal person will

ultimately result in the restoration of the river and its continual protection in such a way that it is

used wisely and respectfully by the people with whom they share their treaty lands and territory.