FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2001
The nest has been at the center of a controversy between land developer Crescent LLC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local environmental groups and activists. The fledging of the eaglet, however, is seen as a sign that the nest is indeed a successful one, and concerns that activity in the area would harm the eagles and hinder their ability to successfully reproduce can begin to be laid to rest.
“This is a significant step in the development of the eaglet and it shows that the nesting pair, up to this point, has not been adversely affected by activity around the nest. They have successfully reproduced, and the eaglet is well on its way to maturity,” said Mark Cantrell, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who has been working with Crescent to ensure the protection of the eagles.
The nest is located in an area adjacent to Lake James, in Burke and McDowell counties, which is owned and currently being developed as a residential area by Crescent. After ceasing development due to the presence of the eagles, a federally-protected species, an agreement was reached between Crescent and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency which administers the Endangered Species Act. Crescent voluntarily curtailed development near the current nest tree while it was occupied by the eagles, even though the Service had issued Crescent an incidental take permit which allows continued development activities on the Lake James property. As a condition of the permit issuance, Crescent agreed to follow an approved Habitat Conservation Plan, in which they will provide for six alternative nesting sites for the eagle pair.
The presence of alternative nesting sites will be key to the future presence of eagles at Lake James. The adult eagles had nested in a white pine, near the Lake James shore, which has since been killed by southern pine beetle. While eagles sometimes do nest in dead trees, due to the quick-decomposition of dead pine trees, it is unlikely the pair will be able to nest in the same tree next year.
“The presence of the alternative nesting sites is key,” said Cantrell, “The now dead pine tree will probably not survive very many storms, and the alternative sites will help secure the eagles' presence at Lake James. It has been a long time since bald eagles nested in Western North Carolina, and we expect to see them here for years to come.”
The bald eagle was one of the first animals protected under the Endangered Species Act and has since undergone a dramatic recovery. In July of 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that bald eagle populations had recovered enough for the species' status to be changed from endangered to threatened. In July of 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed complete de-listing of the species, signifying its full recovery. There are currently more than 11,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, up from 834 known eagles 1963. In 2000, there were 34 eagle nests in North Carolina, up from zero in 1985.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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