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The White Pine Society

White Pine News

Saint Paul Pioneer Press January 9, 1997

Eagles' nest mistakenly cut down
by Dennis Lien
staff writer

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 monumental."

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 for comment.

"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.