Monday, 25 September 2023

Tribal nation, environmental groups demand reprieve for bald eagle nest in Willits

WILLITS, Calif. — The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and environmental advocates are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revoke a permit that would allow Pacific Gas & Electric to cut a tree in Mendocino County that contains a historic eagles nest.

Since the late 1990s, bald eagles have successfully reproduced in this tree and did so most recently in 2022. The Service issued the permit to take the nest after a rushed environmental analysis and consultation process to remove the tree.

“The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has requested formal government-to-government consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to the proposed cutting of a bald eagle nest tree within the Pomo’s ancestral territory,” said Michael Hunter, chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “We ask that no harm occur to this tree during consultation because we need time to explore reasonable solutions that will help protect our bald eagle relatives.”

Bald eagles have returned to the tree for the 2023 nest season and have been observed making improvements to the nest. The tree is dying and near a powerline that services one property. PG&E asserts that removal of the tree is necessary for public safety, although the line has been de-energized.

“Our organization is dismayed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to grant this rushed permit when the threat had already been mitigated by the decision to de-energize the line,” said Matt Simmons, an attorney at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “The Service and PG&E have demonstrated that they do not take seriously their responsibility to protect these iconic raptors.”

Alternatives to tree removal exists, including the undergrounding of existing powerlines and offering renewable energy solutions to the property owner. PG&E and the Service have thus far refused to consider those options.

“Chopping down a historic nest tree should never be the first option, particularly as bald eagles have returned for the breeding season,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A multibillion dollar company has the means and ability to avoid this reckless act, if it wanted.”

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