Saint Paul Pioneer
Press January 9, 1997
Eagles' nest mistakenly
by Dennis Lien
An old white pine tree with a bald eagle's nest was cut down late last
month after being mistakenly marked by a Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources forester, officials in the department conceded Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the tree-cutting,
which was part of a DNR-aided timber sale on private land three miles west
of Pine City.
"I can't tell you how bad everyone feels about it," said Marcy Dowse, a
spokeswoman for the DNR, which set up the sale. "The regret is
Bald eagles are considered a species of special concern, two steps from
endangered species status, and it is unlawful to cut down trees that hold
their nests. Federal agents investigating the incident couldn't be reached
"The good news is the nest was vacant," Dowse said. "And when the eagle
does come back, it will build a new one."
The DNR learned of the situation last week when a neighbor of the
landowner, Peter Wood, asked the agency why it had allowed a private
logger to cut such a tree.
The agency had previously mapped the nest, but a forestry technician for
the DNR area office was unaware of it while in the field marking the
27-acre property near Lake Pokegama, Dowse said. "It was marked on maps
but they were elsewhere," she said.
For a fee, the DNR sets up timber sales that are ecologically sound and
that give the landowners a return on their investment.
In this case, Wood had received an offer of $37,000 to do a clear-cut on
the property, which contained hundreds of old white pines, but approached
of old white pines, but approached the DNR instead, Dowse said. The DNR
marked the area for the logger, leaving buffer zones and other trees
standing for regeneration purposes.
More than 200 old but deteriorating white pines were cut, according to
Jerry Langworthy, the DNR's Hinckley area forest supervisor. Many
healthier pines were left standing, he added.
"Virtually every one that was cut down had internal rot." said Langworthy,
who estimated the trees were 120 to 150 years old. The trees escaped the
great Hinckley fire of 1894 and the vast logging that occurred in that
area before the turn of the century.
Dowse said the agency plans to meet later this month to determine if
additional protections can be put in place. "We want to make it virtually
impossible for this to happen again." Dowse said.
She said she was unaware of any other trees containing eagles' nests that
have been cut in recent years as part of DNR-connected operations. Had the
tree been on state land, Dowse said such an error almost certainly would
not have occurred.
Saving old white pines has been a contentious issue in recent years. Last
month, for example, a group of government and private foresters produced a
plan aimed at restoring white pines as a flourishing species in Minnesota.
DNR officials involved in the effort have asked Gov. Arne Carlson's
administration to include $1.2 million in the next state budget to start
the work. But it would only deal with DNR-managed land.