As I am writing this on Monday morning January 9, 2023, forest defenders are sitting vigil near a threatened bald eagle’s nest in Mendocino County. Bald eagles are also on guard, perched in the dying 120 foot ponderosa pine tree. PG&E has attempted to cut this tree, which it asserts is a “hazard,” for more than a year. Each time it has tried, PG&E has failed. Both forest defenders and eagles wait to see what PG&E will do next.
Last January, forest defenders forced them to back down. Thanks to their actions, bald eagles successfully reproduced in this nest in 2022, like eagles have done in this tree most years since the late 1990s. Bald eagles display nest fidelity, and although they may utilize other trees, they often will return to the same nest tree again and again. Bald eagles are perching in the tree again this year, a strong indication that they will utilize this nest tree again in 2023—if the tree is allowed to stand.
In August 2022, PG&E again attempted to force the issue. This time, the company issued a threat to the property owner: either you let us cut this tree or we will cut off power to the property. Despite the threat and intimidation, the property owner stood strong. Through overwhelming public comment from EPIC members, we forced PG&E to apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In December 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out skimpy environmental analysis that concluded that removing this bald eagle tree outside of the breeding season would not produce any significant environmental impacts. This analysis was timed to coincide with Christmas, with a deadline falling just after the holiday, and it produced what I imagine was the anticipated effect: a small smattering of public comments opposed to the tree removal. And, now, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a permit to remove the tree.
In this tree a hazard? It is dying and near a power line, although one that feeds just a single property. Dead trees eventually do fall, although fire-killed ponderosa pines have been documented to stand over a hundred years after being killed. And cutting the tree now would eliminate whatever risk it might pose, although so would undergrounding the power line, which PG&E has admitted is an option, although is one that it says the property-owner, not the multi-billion dollar corporation, should be on the hook for.
The tree may pose some risk, but life is a series of competing risks. Given that there are reasonable options to destroying this nest tree, we think that this is stupid, wasteful, idiotic, mean-spirited, spiteful, and so on. From our vantage point, it appears that PG&E doesn’t really care about fire risk reduction. It wanted to do something and the people opposed them. PG&E carries on this fight because it wants to make an example: We do what we want.
Want to help? Take action today by using our template to send an email to PG&E demanding they stop all activities immediately, leave the bald eagles alone, and pursue reasonable alternatives to tree removal, including undergrounding of electrical lines.