Saturday, March 24, 2007

More on the Eagles

Last week, I noted that a pair of bald eagles is nesting in Philadelphia for the first time in two centuries. Apparently the nest is on some highly-coveted land near the Navy Yard.

State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo and Gov. Rendell back a plan to build a $150 million regional produce market, with more than a thousand trucks rumbling up every day. And the port wants to build a massive maritime terminal.

For now, the birds have the federal Endangered Species Act on their side, so any development may have to be changed, delayed or even halted.

But all bets are off come June, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to delist the eagle because it has rebounded so significantly.

So here in one of the most populous cities in the country, the new resident eagles could well wind up being a test case for how to protect the species into the future....

Carole Copeyon, supervisor of the Endangered Species Program at the Pennsylvania field office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said yesterday that she had recommended halting next month's planned demolition of some abandoned homes at the Navy Yard site. She also has recommended delaying any construction....

Copeyon said that, for now, the only way the project could continue is if the development received a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service, a process that could take two years if approved at all.

It would involve preparing a "habitat conservation plan" that would demonstrate how the developers planned to avoid, minimize or compensate for any impacts to the eagles.

As the article notes, the construction of the new Capital Beltway bridge required a conservation plan since an eagle nest was right next to the old bridge. As it turned out, that nest kept functioning until the female died from unrelated causes. So traffic and heavy construction work would not necessarily drive the eagles away. One element that may have helped in the Beltway bridge case is that the those eagles had been nesting next to the busy highway for years, and so they were probably used to a lot of noise and activity already. I am not sure if the same dynamics would be in place in this case.

There is more on the rival plans for the Navy Yard site here.