Updated: Jan 24
The tree removal permit for a bald eagle nest tree in Potter Valley, granted to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) for fire hazard abatement on January 5th, has officially been put on hold while the eagles are nesting. After a multi-day standoff between eagle protectors and contractors employed by PG&E, the USFWS and PG&E jointly announced that the tree removal permit has been placed on hold for this nesting season.
The permit was specifically for a nest tree that wasn’t “in-use”. An “in-use” tree is defined by USFWS regulations as a tree that has had eagles on the nest anytime in the previous 10 days after January 15th, the official start of the bald eagle nesting season. The eagles returned to the nest on at least January 9th this year, so once January 15th rolled around the nest tree became officially “in-use” and no longer covered under PG&E’s now invalid permit.
Bald eagles are an important apex predator that were only recently removed from the endangered species list. In addition, they hold deep cultural significance to Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations, including the Northern Pomo. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians requested government-to-government consultation with USFWS and demanded that the Potter Valley nest tree not be cut down on January 11th.
“I’m glad the eagle protectors kept the chainsaws away long enough for the eagles to return to their nest,” said Michael Hunter, chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. “They’ve given us enough time to find a solution to this problem that works for everyone.”
The nesting season regulations give the eagles time to lay their eggs and reproduce. They also give the Tribe, USFWS, PG&E, environmental non-profits, and the public time to come up with a better solution to the hazard of the tree falling on the adjacent power line than cutting the tree down. Such solutions may include undergrounding the utility line, better insulating the line, or islanding off the property from the electric grid with solar panels and batteries.
“The bald eagles are currently rebuilding their nest, moving in new branches and soft moss. We are thrilled that they have been given a stay of their eviction and hope to see young eagles leave the nest come August,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “This outcome was only possible because thousands of people took action in the eagles’ defense.”