June 29, 2012 —
NARROWSBURG, NY – Following an investigation conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as cited in the story below, the Lava Fire Department, sponsor of the fireworks, has cancelled the 2012 fireworks display. Sources told The River Reporter the decision came after the department learned it could face penalties and fines if negative impacts occurred to the American bald eagle family, including two adults and three young, which nests in the Narrowsburg flats.
Federal regulations specify in the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines that Class B explosives, which include fireworks, should not be detonated within a half-mile of an active roost, or within one mile in the case of an open area such as the Delaware River.
An Independence Day dilemma; American icons at issue
A difficult discussion about the fate of two iconic American symbols is underway in the Town of Tusten. The dialogue is not new; in fact, various Tusten boards and at least three supervisors have weighed the issue of discharging Independence Day fireworks in proximity to an eagle nest built in the Narrowsburg flats, and all have continued to approve the practice by granting permission to the sponsoring parties.
It’s the same nest that tourists view through the binoculars installed on the town deck on Main Street. From this nest, an eagle fledgling was disturbed during last year’s fireworks display, ending up stranded on a spit of land below, where well-meaning canoeists unwittingly caused additional distress by paddling close to view the bird. Also from this nest, in 2009, another eaglet affected by the fireworks suffered a broken leg and had to be rehabilitated by the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (see www.riverreporter.com/issues/09-01-15/feature.html ).
The incidents are ironic in a town dubbed the “Eagle Capital of New York State” in 2003 by Senator John Bonacic, which for 10 years celebrated the country’s national symbol with an annual EagleFest that brought more than 3,000 tourists to town.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) holds authority in the matter, and is currently conducting an investigation. The federal agency upholds the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines, which specify that such fireworks should not be detonated within a half-mile of an active roost, or within one mile in the case of an open area such as the Delaware River.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is also weighing in on the issue. A DEC endangered species biologist has been in contact with both the municipality and the FWS regarding the issue. Specifics were unavailable by press time.
Last year, the fireworks were sponsored by the Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce, which estimated the financial cost as “in the thousands.” This year, the fireworks were handed over to the Lava Fire Department, which has been raising funds for the fireworks and has placed a substantial deposit on their purchase.
Local merchants have expressed mixed responses to the display. While some welcome the influx of tourists and cash, others complain that the economic boost is not worth the disruption and the trash tossed into the river from the bridge.
Currently, the plan is to proceed as in recent years with the fireworks being detonated from the ballfield next to the DEC’s public access parking lot along the Delaware River. At issue is whether that location satisfies the restrictions identified in the federal guidelines.
Town supervisor Carol Wingert has been trying to identify an alternate location with little sucess, but is willing to continue exploring other options for the 2013 display.
The National Park Service (NPS) is preparing to provide assistance to minimize any negative impacts that may occur. The NPS air boat will be available and rangers could patrol the area to ward off river users if a bird becomes stranded again.