ARCATA, Calif. - The California condor soon may return to the skies in northwestern California - but conservation groups are calling for action to improve their chances of survival.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Yurok Tribe, have proposed reintroducing the condor to the northern part of its historic range, which includes Oregon and northern Nevada. However, Pamela Flick, senior California representative for the group Defenders of Wildlife , said the states need some policy changes to pave the way.
"Defenders of Wildlife remains concerned about releasing condors into a landscape rife with threats to their continued survival," she said, "from the familiar threat of lead poisoning to the emerging threat of rodenticide poisoning."
California's ban on lead ammunition takes full effect July 1. Oregon's lead-ammunition program is voluntary, and Nevada doesn't regulate it at all.
Condors also fall victim to certain types of anticoagulant rat poison by eating tainted carcasses. Assembly Bill 1788 partially addresses the issue by banning the chemicals on state land, but Flick said the main problem is with illegal marijuana operations.
"Thousands of illegal marijuana farms have been identified here in California," she said, "with a substantial concentration of these sites located in the area of release in northwest California."
The public can weigh in on the federal environmental assessment of the condor reintroduction program Thursday morning in Klamath and at an evening meeting in Arcata.
The California condor almost went extinct in 1985, with only 22 birds remaining. But there are now 290 birds in southern California and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, thanks to successful reintroduction programs there.
Editor's Note: Three condors were released at the Vermilion Cliffs in Grand Canyon National Park in December 1996. The current estimated population of 82 condors soaring over the Grand Canyon is included in the 290 bird count noted in the article.