In the heart of northern California, a group of determined environmentalists gathered to protect a beloved pair of bald eagles and their home. The raptors have nested in a 120ft ponderosa pine tree for years, renovating and upgrading their twig and branch nest each season.
But this year, their home was at risk of being chopped down by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the largest utility company in the US. PG&E had obtained a permit to remove the tree, arguing it could fall on their nearby power line and cause a wildfire.
The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, alongside environmentalists, countered that PG&E should move their power lines instead. Lawyers for the tribe implored the utility company to reconsider, while locals and activists protested, prayed, and even barricaded themselves in front of the tree to prevent its removal. The eagles returned just in time, and PG&E backed down from their plans to chop down the tree.
This showdown highlights the growing tension between PG&E and the communities they serve, many of whom live in rural wildland areas. The company is under increasing legal and financial pressure to prevent their equipment from causing fires, such as the deadly 2020 fire in northern Shasta county. PG&E is rushing to trim trees and remove brush near its power lines to avoid liability, but environmentalists worry that local nuances are being overlooked.
Activists and tribal leaders have accused PG&E and the US Fish and Wildlife Service of failing to properly inform and consult with the tribe before deciding to remove the tree. The tree’s owner and residents also supported alternative solutions, including rerouting or burying the electric line or setting up a solar microgrid. PG&E has even advertised plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines underground to reduce the risk of them hitting trees, so why not in this case?
The bald eagle holds both cultural significances to Native American tribes and is a symbol of the United States. The recent bald eagle watch party brought together old-time environmentalists and their families, joined by coffee, muffins, binoculars, and a shared love for the majestic birds. Priscilla Hunter, the former Coyote Valley chair, marveled at their return, “It’s a miracle that they are here.”
As we continue to strive for sustainability, it’s crucial to consider the impact our actions have on local ecosystems and wildlife.
The battle to save the bald eagle’s nest serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting our environment and preserving our natural heritage for generations to come.
This article by Nicholas Vincent was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 13 February 2023.
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