Indiana boasts an estimated 150 to 175 bald eagle nests this year. That's the word from Mitchell's John Castrale, a nongame bird biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

What a comeback that number of nests represents.

That's because 40 years ago the population of bald eagles in Indiana - and across the country - was at such a dismal low that the future of the country's living national symbol was very uncertain. Along came the Endangered Species Act, which was signed by President Richard Nixon on Dec. 8, 1973. As the act nears its 40th anniversary there is much to celebrate.

The bald eagle and other birds faced declining numbers in large part because of poisoning by widespread and almost unregulated use of DDT, a pesticide that weakened egg shells, making them fragile to survive to hatching. The pesticide was banned, and a serious effort was made to restore habitat.

Castrale was prominent in the effort to reintroduce the bald eagle to Indiana. In 1985 through 1989, 78 bald eagles were brought from Wisconsin and Alaska and were released. Castrale was there for the release and can take great satisfaction in knowing that, as he has done bald eagle counts throughout the years, the population is growing significantly. Castrale's most recent estimate was up sharply from the 120 nests in the state in 2010.

The reintroduction success is evident in the fact that on Aug. 9, 2007, the bald eagle population had recovered sufficiently to remove it from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. Many Hoosiers have played a role in the comeback of the bald eagle and can help prevent the decline of other wildlife species by donating to the Department of Natural Resources Non-game Fund, which is easily accessible online at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild.

Hoosiers also can keep an eye to the sky knowing that while it was unlikely to see a majestic eagle 20 years ago, it can easily happen now. That delightful change in the outdoor world is worth celebrating.

- Bedford Times-Mail