“Founder of American Eagle Foundation”
Al Louis Cecere is President of the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and dedicated to “Keeping America’s Eagles Flying Strong and Free” for generations to come. In nominating Cecere for the Eagle Rare Award, one has only to understand a bit of his extensive life’s work to realize the wisdom of this choice.
Motivated by a 1983 AP photograph that appeared in The Tennessean depicting two dozen Bald Eagles shot by poachers in the Dakotas, Al experienced a life-changing moment that aroused his passion to save a precious species. From that moment on, he was determined to do all he could to restore and protect our nation’s Bald Eagle population.
In 1985, Cecere founded the AEF, which has now grown into the largest non-governmental eagle effort in the United States. Relying solely on private and corporate contributions, it has helped fund and support numerous eagle restoration and protection efforts across the USA.
Today, the AEF operates the largest eagle breeding and education center in the United States. Working closely with Dolly Parton's Dollywood Company, he has established a multi-million dollar United States Eagle Center located in Pigeon Forge, TN (operated by the AEF) and has raised over $17 million dollars to fund the eagle cause.
The AEF also conducts a rehabilitation program for countless injured eagles and other raptors, and also cares for a non-releasable collection of approximately 80 permanently disabled birds of prey daily, including 45 eagles. The foundation is licensed by state and federal wildlife agencies.
To date, the AEF has released 119 captive-hatched Bald Eaglets into the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains area, and has supported the release of 100s of eagles in other locations.
Al has spent the past 27 years traveling throughout the United States educating tens of millions of people about the need to save and protect the USA’s National Bird.
In 1996, Cecere persuaded President Bill Clinton to proclaim June 20th “American Eagle Day.” Since then, 40 state Governors have proclaimed this special day, and the United States Congress has passed resolutions celebrating American Eagle Day
In 2004, Al spearheaded an effort in the U.S. Congress to pass the Bald Eagle Commemorative Coin Act. Sales from the resulting coins issued by the United States Mint coin have raised $7.8 million for support of Bald Eagle programs nationally.
One special eagle, Challenger, is often the public face of the American Eagle Foundation. Rescued after falling from a nest in a storm, and raised and fed by humans, Challenger became human-imprinted (and therefore "non-releasable"). The eagle eventually found his way to the AEF where he has lived for 23 years. Challenger’s image and name is on a legal tender United States Mint coin, and he was chosen by the U.S. Government to fly during the ceremony announcing the delisting of Bald Eagles from Endangered Species Act protection. He has flown approximately 240 times at major sporting events and national conferences/ceremonies. He frequently raises the spirits of our military at Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day events, and is a familiar guest on national and regional television shows. He’s been invited and has participated in Inaugural events for President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.
Expressing his thoughts about the Bald Eagle, Cecere once stated: “When I look at the eagle, I see a micro-dot of a glimpse of what the majesty of our own Creator is.” Thanks to his untiring efforts, the Bald Eagle now enjoys a much more promising future.
Al Cecere Bio Video: http://www.wbir.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1187695218001
Al Cecere and AEF 27 year timeline: http://www.eagles.org/about/AEF-Major-Accomplishments-1985-2011.php