Oregon is proposing to relax protections for bald eagles on private land. A series of public hearings on the rule change began Wednesday.
Recovery of the bald eagle is considered to be an endangered-species success story. The eagle was taken off the federal list of endangered species in 2007. Oregon delisted it in 2012.
Now the Oregon Board of Forestry is considering rule changes that will allow logging closer to bald eagle nests.
“The rules that are in place currently are really more than what we need. Especially given how much they’ve recovered,” said Jennifer Weikel, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Roughly half of Oregon's bald eagle nest sites are on or near private land. Weikel says for these nesting sites, the proposed logging buffers are based on recommendations from the federal government. ODF would keep the same habitat buffer around eagle nests, but reduces the additional aircraft and disturbance buffers.
In addition, the proposed Oregon rule change would eliminate protections for roosting and perching sites.
Miel Corbett of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said even if Oregon decides to follow through, federal protections will still be in place.
Bald eagles are protected federally by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The federal government imposes restrictions on human activity to minimize impacts on bald eagles, especially during nesting and roosting seasons. It does this through a permitting system.
"The purpose of the Act is to minimize disturbance to eagles, so impacts of roost trees fall under that umbrella," Corbett said.
Oregon Department of Forestry public hearings are scheduled for April 19 in Klamath Falls, April 27 in Roseburg, and May 2 in Forest Grove.