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SOARING BACK FROM THE BRINK

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The American bald eagle, which was at the brink of extinction two decades ago, has made such a dramatic recovery that the Interior Department wants to remove it from the endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce on Thursday its proposal to upgrade the status of the eagle from endangered to the less dire "threatened" category, according to government officials and environmentalists.The proposal is expected to become final after a 90-day comment period.

It marks a renaissance for the stately bald eagle - the nation's symbol for more than two centuries. In the early 1970s, there were fewer than 800 adult nesting eagles in the lower 48 states. Today there are nearly 8,000 adult birds in those states.

The action marks "a dramatic recovery for the bald eagle" and a victory for the Endangered Species Act, said Michael Bean of the Environmental Defense Fund. He said the eagle could not have survived without the federal law that protects species from dis-ap-pearing.

Interior officials have hinted for more than a year that the bald eagle would soon be removed from the endangered category across most of the country. Fish and Wildlife Director Mollie Beattie scheduled a news conference for Thursday on the eagle.