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Clarifying our bald eagle history

January 2, 2013

As a result of reading the article “The Delaware Highlands Conservancy and the Eagle Institute team up” in the December 13 to 19 issue of The River Reporter, I was forced to do some file checking. I took issue with the article statement, “This is a direct result of the work of The Eagle Institute...”

While I compliment what Lori McKean and The Eagle Institute are doing and the hard work that Barbara Yeaman has done with the formation of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, which has been a monumental asset to the river corridor, I do not believe that either was involved until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) acquired the lands in the Mongaup-Rio corridor.

In 1974, I presented an article “Bald Eagle Christmas Count Data” in The Kingbird, the quarterly publication of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, Inc., now known as the NYS Ornithological Association. In that article, I documented Sullivan County’s rich eagle resource and went on to claim “that Sullivan County supports the greatest concentration of wintering Bald Eagles in New York State if not the entire inland Northeast.”

As President of Sullivan County Audubon Society and as Professor of Biology at Orange County Community College, I tried to interest National Audubon to take a more active role in protecting this area. They were not interested. In later years, I tried the National Wildlife Federation and they were not interested. It had to wait for a specific threat.

In 1987, the Clove Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Orange and Rockland Utilities, proposed a housing project of 46 to 161 housing units on 816 acres in the Mongaup-Rio corridor. This did draw the attention of many bird organizations, progressive Forestburgh leaders, the media and conservationists in general.

The NYS DEC was represented in part by its endangered species specialist, Peter Nye. During 1976 to 1978, Peter had earned his master’s degree while working for the DEC. He had selected for his Master’s thesis “the ecology of a population of wintering bald eagles in southeastern New York, aka the Rio-Mongaup-Swinging Bridge area.”

The political NYS DEC was negotiating with Clove Development Corp., but in the end negotiated the purchase of and easements on much of the holdings around the reservoirs. A terrific move on behalf of all citizens.

Marty Borko
Waverly, NY