ANOTHER Update on the Eel River Bald Eagle nest


Tim Bray
 

Yesterday I spoke with Heather Beeler, Regional Eagle Permit Coordinator for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). She received a request from PG&E “about a week ago” for emergency approval to take down the nest tree, citing an imminent risk of fire hazard, and approved that request by e-mail. She was very forthcoming and explained the whole situation from a regional perspective. She was also quite frank about her agency's position when confronted with any proposed action intended to reduce wildfire risk: they will never oppose such actions, fearing the liability. She also is looking at things in a regional context.

Bald Eagles, as we know, have made a great recovery and are repopulating their original range in California. Their population growth is robust, which means individual nests are no longer critical to the overall recovery.

This particular pair of Eagles has two nests in their territory, as many Bald Eagle pairs do. The nest in question seems to be favored by them and they used it to fledge young for several years, but in some years they have used the "alternative" nest - most recently in 2016, according to Ms. Beeler. This is a strategy that makes them more resilient against the catastrophic loss of a nest. If one nest is lost during the nonbreeding season, the eagles can move to the other for the next breeding season. Bald Eagles are highly individualistic and their response to disturbance varies widely. This pair has been established in this territory for many years, producing several young, so it seems likely they would remain and use their alternative nest.

This afternoon I spoke with Mike Best, Avian Protection Plan manager for PG&E. (A lot of his job consists of trying to prevent situations like this.) He says they discussed alternatives to removing the tree but the only feasible alternative is shutting off the power to that line during fire season. According to their arborist, the tree's condition has deteriorated in the past year or so, increasing the risk of falling onto the nearby power lines. So, they are back to the plan to send a crew out to cut the tree down.

At this point I think we have done what we could to protect the birds. No governmental agency is willing to step in. CDFW staff have been directed by their management to stay out of it, as the USFWS approval takes the matter out of their hands. If PG&E is prevented from doing the work, there may be repercussions to  the tenant who raised this issue in the first place if the power is shut off. Simply delaying the work is likely to make things worse for the eagles; if it happens before they begin egg production, there is a better chance that they will move to their other nest.

I hope the alternate nest can be monitored so we find out how the story ends.


Tim
Mendocino Coast Audubon Society
Ecology Hour
Oak & Thorn
Facebook: Oak and Thorn




Erica Fielder
 

Thank you for all this hard sleuthing, Tim. The process has been educational. Thank you for keeping us all informed. 

Erica



On Jan 14, 2022, at 7:39 AM, Tim Bray <tbray@...> wrote:

Yesterday I spoke with Heather Beeler, Regional Eagle Permit Coordinator for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). She received a request from PG&E “about a week ago” for emergency approval to take down the nest tree, citing an imminent risk of fire hazard, and approved that request by e-mail. She was very forthcoming and explained the whole situation from a regional perspective. She was also quite frank about her agency's position when confronted with any proposed action intended to reduce wildfire risk: they will never oppose such actions, fearing the liability. She also is looking at things in a regional context.

Bald Eagles, as we know, have made a great recovery and are repopulating their original range in California. Their population growth is robust, which means individual nests are no longer critical to the overall recovery.

This particular pair of Eagles has two nests in their territory, as many Bald Eagle pairs do. The nest in question seems to be favored by them and they used it to fledge young for several years, but in some years they have used the "alternative" nest - most recently in 2016, according to Ms. Beeler. This is a strategy that makes them more resilient against the catastrophic loss of a nest. If one nest is lost during the nonbreeding season, the eagles can move to the other for the next breeding season. Bald Eagles are highly individualistic and their response to disturbance varies widely. This pair has been established in this territory for many years, producing several young, so it seems likely they would remain and use their alternative nest.

This afternoon I spoke with Mike Best, Avian Protection Plan manager for PG&E. (A lot of his job consists of trying to prevent situations like this.) He says they discussed alternatives to removing the tree but the only feasible alternative is shutting off the power to that line during fire season. According to their arborist, the tree's condition has deteriorated in the past year or so, increasing the risk of falling onto the nearby power lines. So, they are back to the plan to send a crew out to cut the tree down.

At this point I think we have done what we could to protect the birds. No governmental agency is willing to step in. CDFW staff have been directed by their management to stay out of it, as the USFWS approval takes the matter out of their hands. If PG&E is prevented from doing the work, there may be repercussions to  the tenant who raised this issue in the first place if the power is shut off. Simply delaying the work is likely to make things worse for the eagles; if it happens before they begin egg production, there is a better chance that they will move to their other nest.

I hope the alternate nest can be monitored so we find out how the story ends.


Tim
Mendocino Coast Audubon Society
Ecology Hour
Oak & Thorn
Facebook: Oak and Thorn




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