End to Destruction of Eagles Nests At Norfolk Botanical Garden Urged

On behalf of Eagle on Alliance (EOA) – a grass-roots group in Virginia – the firm today sent a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting it to stop allowing the City of Norfolk to destroy the nests of eagles that have lived at the Garden since 2003 and that millions of people have delighted in following over “Eagle Cam” until the site was shut down when nest destruction began last fall.   The FWS decided to authorize the destruction of the nests from October, 2012 – March, 2013 in an effort to make the eagles leave the area which is adjacent to the Norfolk International Airport, and since then the City (with the assistance of the USDA “Wildlife Services” division) has destroyed seven different nests, each time waiting until the nest is almost completed before tearing it down – all at taxpayer expense.  Although under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act the FWS is only authorized to allow the destruction of eagles nests when “necessary” to protect public safety, internal minutes of a meeting held by the FWS, the Airport, and the City of Norfolk before the FWS issued the permit reveal that the consensus of the agency biologists was that it was “unlikely” that removal of these nests “would be successful in preventing future nesting in close proximity to the airport,” and that, consequently “removal of the nest will not address the concern of aviation and eagle hazards.”   In addition, although the agency’s implementing regulations require the FWS to also determine that “there is no practicable alternative to nest removal that would protect the interest to be served,” the Airport has yet to implement several obvious measures that to reduce the risk of “bird strikes” there.  For example, although other Airports immediately adjacent to wildlife areas – such as JFK and the Philadelphia Airport – employ full-time wildlife biologists to detect and disperse birds from the runways, and to alert airmen when birds are present, internal documents recently obtained by EOA under the open records laws show that the Norfolk Airport borrows a federal employee for this purpose for only 60 hours each month, despite the fact that, according to its own financial records, the Airport has over $150,000,000 in “total net assets,” and recently announced that it is spending $11 million to renovate the lobby, including “the installation of  a large skylight in the lobby area [and] the installation of a new terrazzo flooring.”   Asserting that the FWS simply cannot meet the necessary requirements for authorizing the destruction of the eagles’ nests, EOA has asked the agency to terminate the exiting permit and to refrain from issuing any additional permits to the City for next year.