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Eagle On Alliance Files Suit Against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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July 3, 2013

Eagle On Alliance Files Suit Against The U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service To Block Any Future Removal Of Bald Eagles Nests At Norfolk Botanical Garden

Norfolk, Virginia – On the eve of our Nation’s most important national holiday when our country is preparing to celebrate Independence Day, two of our national symbols, the bald eagles at Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG), continue to be cruelly harassed by various government agencies through a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to the City of Norfolk, Virginia.

As a result, Eagle On Alliance (EOA) filed suit today in U.S. District Court for the, Eastern District of Virginia against FWS challenging the decisions by the Service that authorized the destruction of bald eagles nests at Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG). Seven nests have been destroyed at the Garden since October 4, 2012.

Internal records received by EOA under the open records law show that, although the FWS issued the permits in an effort to make the eagles leave the Botanical Garden to prevent a collision with a plane at the adjacent Norfolk International Airport, the “consensus” of the biologists was that such harassment would not deter the eagles from leaving the area, or prevent other eagles from taking their place, given the rich habitat and abundance of food that is available from Lake Whitehurst that is next to the Garden and also surrounds the Airport. Internal minutes of a meeting held shortly before the permits were issued show that the biologists agreed that “if the nest were taken down, there would likely be a constant effort by eagles to build in the general area,” and that “[m]any in the meeting stated that removal of the nests will not address the concern of aviation and eagle hazards.” 

Records also show that although the Airport Authority recently spent between $7-11 million renovating the lobby of the Norfolk International Airport, it has failed to implement basic measures to detect and avoid bird-strikes at the Airport that are used by other airports located adjacent to wildlife areas, such as JFK International and the Philadelphia International Airport.

EOA alleges that in granting the nest destruction permits the FWS has violated the Eagle Protection Act which allows the “take” of a bald eagle or its nest only where “necessary” to prevent an immediate threat to public safety.  EOA also alleges that the FWS violated, the National Environmental Policy Act including the Council for Environmental Quality implementing regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act with the issuance of the permits.

As predicted by the biologists, despite having seven of their nests destroyed during the last nesting season, the bald eagles remain at the Garden even after nine months of inhumane treatment by the very government that should be protecting them.

As Carol Senechal, founder of EOA and one of the Plaintiffs in the action explains, “What the government is doing here – waiting for these eagles to build their nests and then tearing them down — is cruel and inhumane.  There are far more effective ways for the Airport to prevent any risk that one of these eagles could cause a plane to crash. For example, the airport could abide by the provisions of its own eagle depredation permit that allows the airport to keep eagles off of airport property by almost any means necessary. If the airport had been actively doing this, another permit for nest removal at NBG would not have been necessary. This cruel treatment of our nation’s symbol needs to stop.”

Eagle On Alliance respectfully requests the court to set aside the permits issued to the City of Norfolk and to enjoin the FWS from issuing any further permits to take the NBG Eagles or their nests unless and until FWS fully complies with the requirements of these laws.

EOA is being represented in the case by the Washington, D.C. public interest firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

Photo courtesy of Bob Mislan

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