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A wildlife biologist weighs in


July 11, 2012

Dear Supervisor Wingert and Tusten Town Board Members:

I recognize that the town board has no responsibility for the annual fireworks display other than authorizing appropriate road closings and requiring proof of insurance. It has been very interesting to read and watch all the speculation and accounts of what did or did not happen to the eagles from the Narrowsburg nest.

It was especially interesting since I was working as a bald eagle specialist for the DEC from 1999 to 2009 and no one, other than Senator Bonacic’s office, contacted me to ask for the facts. When the bald eagles chose to nest right in the hamlet, everyone was excited and happy to have them here. They became one of the town’s biggest attractions. The town and its merchants have capitalized on them and the town’s people look after them.

So when one of them was found seriously injured (oblique femur fracture, I held her for the x-rays) the morning after the fireworks in 2009, most likely a result of crashing into something in the dark, many caring people participated in her capture, transport to Albany, surgery and post release care.

At that time former supervisor Ben Johnson recognized there was an issue with the current location used for the fireworks, since it is much closer to the nest than the previous location at the end of the field and began to look into a solution for moving the fireworks. Although Pete Nye, former head of the Endangered Species Unit thought that the fireworks location had been moved, the situation had not yet been resolved when a new supervisor took over six months later.

Apparently no further action was taken regarding the location change during the past two years resulting in a non-flighted young eagle being driven from the nest during the night of the fireworks display in 2011 as reported in the local paper. The fate of this bird is unknown.

This is not a controversy of eagles vs. fireworks. We can all live here; we can enjoy the eagles and capitalize on them safely. We can have fireworks in the town. We just need to locate the detonation in compliance with federal regulations designed to protect the eagles.

By means of this letter, I am volunteering my professional services to the town to work with the board and/or any organization which sponsors fireworks in the future to make sure the event is in compliance with the law to prevent a situation similar to what happened this year.

Sincerely,
Kathy Michell, Wildlife Biologist
Town of Tusten

[This letter was read at the Tusten Town Board meeting on July 9, 2012.]