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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Receives Habitat Conservation Plan for Bald Eagles at Lake Wylie, North Carolina


April 13, 2001

Mark Cantrell 828/258-3939, Ext. 227
Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in the April 9, 2001, Federal Register its receipt of an application for an incidental take permit associated with a Habitat Conservation Plan for the American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Pinsto, Inc., a Gaston County, N.C., development company, has requested the incidental take permit in order to complete construction of a 13-acre subdivision where a new bald eagle nest was discovered in December 2000. The company had initiated construction of the final phase of an existing residential subdivision in November, but this construction was temporarily halted when a pair of eagles began constructing a nest in the subdivision within 200 feet of existing homes.

As many as 75,000 pairs of nesting bald eagles may have lived in the lower 48 United States when the bird was adopted as our national symbol in 1782. It was a common nesting species along the coast of the Southeast as well as along major rivers and lakes. Its population diminished rapidly, however, due to habitat destruction, nest disturbance, illegal shooting, and most notably, the contamination of its food sources by the pesticide DDT. By the 1960s, nesting populations were reduced to less than 2 percent of their former numbers, and the bald eagle below the 40th parallel was listed as endangered in 1967.

Due to efforts to protect the bald eagle and its habitat, reintroduce eagles into suitable habitat, and ban the use of DDT, bald eagle populations have expanded rapidly in recent years, prompting the Service to propose removing the species from the list of threatened and endangered species. However, many of these eagles are choosing to build nests in developed areas or areas slated for development.

"This pair of bald eagles seems accustomed to the normal residential activities around the site they have selected to build a nest," said Mark Cantrell, a biologist in the Service's Asheville office. "Based on what has happened in states like Florida, where eagles have continued to nest in and around developed areas, we think they will readily adapt to the proposed habitat modifications under this Habitat Conservation Plan."

When eagles choose areas close to developed areas, the Service works with affected private landowners to balance the habitat and nesting needs of the eagles with the landowner's needs. The Service does this by working with private landowners and other non-Federal entities to develop Habitat Conservation Plans that can authorize activities that might harm listed species and that are otherwise prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. These plans are cooperative efforts between the Service and the private sector to conserve and protect endangered species without sacrificing landowners' rights to reasonable use of their property.

The Service's Asheville Field Office worked closely with Pinsto, Inc., to design measures to reduce impacts to the eagles while allowing the development to proceed if the incidental take permit is issued. In an effort to minimize any adverse effects of subdivision construction on the eagles and their habitat, Pinsto, Inc., proposed several conservation measures including:

  • Protection of a 3-acre wooded area around the nest;
  • Prohibitions on construction activities during the nesting season; and,
  • A contribution for raptor rehabilitation at a local raptor center.
The Endangered Species Act is not designed to stop development, but to conserve listed species by helping to protect the ecosystems in which they live. Prior to 1982, there was no mechanism for private landowners to conduct otherwise lawful activities within endangered species habitat without running the risk of being in violation of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act. Section 9 identifies the types of actions that are prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. Congress addressed this issue in 1982 when it amended the Endangered Species Act to authorize development of Habitat Conservation Plans that allow for otherwise lawful activities, such as development or timber harvest, to occur if those activities will not jeopardize the species in question. When carefully implemented, these plans allow resource managers and property owners to carry out their lawful activities while becoming partners with the Service in maintaining wildlife habitat.

The Service is soliciting data and comments from the public on all aspects of the proposal to issue the permit. Comments should be submitted to the Regional Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), by May 9, 2001. The Service announced a similar permit application last month for a bald eagle nest upstream on the Catawba River at Lake James. No decision has been made yet on that permit.)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses 531 National Wildlife Refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management 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 fish and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

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