State’s bald eagle plan eyes continued recovery statewide

Albany — A new conservation plan for the bald eagle in New York state hopes to maintain 200 breeding pairs of the bird throughout the state, as well as protect the wintering population.

The final plan was announced by state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently and emphasizes limiting human disturbance of existing nests.

The bald eagle, currently listed as a threatened species in New York, continues to make a remarkable recovery across the state. The Conservation Plan serves as a guide for landowners, resource managers, local government agencies, and other stakeholders to manage and perpetuate the bald eagle and its habitat in New York. This plan also informs the public of actions recommended to achieve the goal of a sustainable, healthy bald eagle population, including its essential habitat and the ecosystems it depends upon.

One of the most important protections we can give the birds is avoiding human disturbance at bald eagle nests. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and under the Environmental Conservation Law of New York, it’s illegal to continually disturb bald eagle nests.

DEC recommends a 330-foot buffer for activities near nesting sites, unless the birds have shown a tolerance for activity. Additionally, any air traffic should be restricted to no closer than a quarter mile from and at least 1000 feet above ground level at the nest site.

The plan, released after gathering public comment, includes several objectives to protect the eagle in New York, including:

• Consulting with landowners, developers, business and industry to ensure that proposed projects occurring near eagle nesting and wintering locations avoid or minimize impacts to bald eagles that may result from the potential impacts of land clearing; increased human disturbance; collisions with cars, trains, electric lines, wind turbines and other structures; and, environmental contaminants including lead and PCBs.

• Working collaboratively with landowners to limit human disturbance, address the risk of predation and gather information on the status of nests by building partnerships between landowners, DEC, local land trusts, environmental groups, and volunteers.

• Discouraging the intentional feeding of bald eagles to avoid potential exposure to contamination and disease.

• Monitoring the distribution and abundance of breeding and wintering bald eagles in New York state at a level suitable to ensure objectives are met.

The final plan and additional information on bald eagles can be found on DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/74052.html .

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