The bald eagle recovery in the Bay watershed — an area with one of the highest concentrations of eagles in the United States — remained on track in 1999.

Surveys indicate the Maryland, Pennsyl vania and Virginia portions of the watershed had 486 active nests (nests with young) last year, up from 449 in 1998. In addition, there were 513 nesting adult pairs.

The count also shows an increasing number of young. The watershed last year had 706 eaglets in active nests — up from 614 the year before. The gain stems from significant increases in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The number of eaglets nearly doubled in the Susquehanna River basin of Pennsylvania, while the number increased by 25 percent in Maryland.

“The bald eagle is a symbol of America, and its rebound is symbolic of the great strides we have made in restoring the Chesapeake Bay and the environment of the mid-Atlantic region,” said Bradley Campbell, EPA Region III administrator.

Still, eagles remain below their historic numbers. In the early 1900s, more than 1,000 pairs were around the Bay, but fewer than 90 pairs remained in the early 1970s, mainly because of the pesticide DDT, which contaminated the food chain and caused eagles to lay eggs with thin shells that cracked. DDT was banned in 1972.

Efforts to protect and restore habitat around the Bay, as well as reintroduction effo

The bald eagle recovery in the Bay watershed — an area with one of the highest concentrations of eagles in the United States — remained on track in 1999.

Surveys indicate the Maryland, Pennsyl vania and Virginia portions of the watershed had 486 active nests (nests with young) last year, up from 449 in 1998. In addition, there were 513 nesting adult pairs.

The count also shows an increasing number of young. The watershed last year had 706 eaglets in active nests — up from 614 the year before. The gain stems from significant increases in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The number of eaglets nearly doubled in the Susquehanna River basin of Pennsylvania, while the number increased by 25 percent in Maryland.

“The bald eagle is a symbol of America, and its rebound is symbolic of the great strides we have made in restoring the Chesapeake Bay and the environment of the mid-Atlantic region,” said Bradley Campbell, EPA Region III administrator.

Still, eagles remain below their historic numbers. In the early 1900s, more than 1,000 pairs were around the Bay, but fewer than 90 pairs remained in the early 1970s, mainly because of the pesticide DDT, which contaminated the food chain and caused eagles to lay eggs with thin shells that cracked. DDT was banned in 1972.

Efforts to protect and restore habitat around the Bay, as well as reintroduction efforts in Pennsylvania — where the eagle population was totally lost — also helped the comeback. Today, eagles can be seen all year in the region.

The bald eagle was once considered “endangered” but is now listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Because of its rebound, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year began the process to remove the bald eagle from the Endangered Species List — something that could happen this summer.