Saturday, June 3, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Potter Valley Pine Tree That Bald Eagles Nest Within Slated to be Cut Down Tomorrow


Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to matthewplafever@gmail.com. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication.

Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.

A picture of the bald eagle in the Potter Valley pine tree [Picture provided by Keri Ann Bourne]

Clearly visible from the roadway, on 19261 Ridgeway Hwy in Potter Valley, there is an active nesting pair of bald eagles. Their tree is slated to be felled, along with their nest, in the morning hours of Wednesday, Jan 13th by PG&E.

The photo accompanying this letter was taken Monday, January 10th. (There is a large nest and an adult Bald Eagle perched next to it.) Video footage taken the morning of January 12th shows the tree, green with growth, and a large adult Bald Eagle soaring out of the nest and tree.

Alex R. Thomas, independent certified arborist, paid for privately by the tenant, reports that the living tree is “in decline” but has “no apparent signs of structural deficiencies”.

PG&E spokesperson Deanne Contreras says “The certified PG&E arborist..confirmed the pine tree is dead and will fail very soon.. biologists have visited the site.. there is an inactive bald eagle’s nest located in the dead pine tree”

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Independent Arborist Alex R. Thomas states “Experts on the local Audubon societies agree that the presence of an adult bird at the nest this time of year constitutes an “active” nesting, which the removing of said tree would be in violation of CDFW codes 3503 and 3503.5. Further, removal at this time would be disruptive to the nesting of these raptors for potentially several years into the future, as Bald Eagle’s nests are quite intricate and complex, often taking several years to complete.”

Reflecting upon the images I provided of adult Bald Eagles occupying the nest currently, Ms. Contreras replied “the nest is considered inactive (no eggs or young)… US Fish and Wildlife Service has conditioned its approval for PG&E to perform the work… before January 15th. PG&E and US Fish and Wildlife are in agreement that felling the tree now will give the eagles time to migrate to other nests that were observed in the area and that have been used by this pair in the past”

The aforementioned date of January 15th is what is known as the “Critical Period”. In the Forest Practice Act, Tim Bray of the Mendocino Audubon Society tells me, is the date forbids timber and forestry operations from cutting any Bald Eagle nest down. (CCR Section 919.3 14 CA ADC S 919.3) He goes on to clarify that even though “PG&E has obtained special authorization for this work, however, that doesn’t suspend the Federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” That makes it illegal to cut down any bald eagle nest.

Tim Bray confirms that there are two known active nests in that area, and if there are Eagles sitting in the nest, then it is considered an active nest. Mr. Bray further says that “an active nest does not necessarily have to have eagles in it year-round. Eagles reuse the same nest year after year and they put a lot of energy and effort into building and maintaining them so it’s a major blow to the eagles if their nest is destroyed. They may or may not rebuild. In fact, they may or may not even stay in the area.”

Rather than being an imminent danger to PG&E utility operations, Arborist Alex R. Thomas says “The tree, given its location in a rather open and clear “meadow”, distance from building or public right of way, appears to be a candidate for alternative risk mitigation without the removal of the tree. This would also serve to preserve the wildlife habitat that the tree currently provides.”

According to wildlife.ca.gov Bald Eagles typically build their nest in late December and January, and lay eggs in the nest in mid-January. The hatching and rearing of the young eagles are around mid-February and the fledging (process of acquiring feathers and preparing to leave the nest) is around May. The particular tree in jeopardy has a long (25-30 year) history of housing nesting bald eagles.

According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife website Wildlife.ca.gov, Bald Eagles were once at dire risk of extinction. In the 1970s there were only 30 breeding pairs left in California. Through the dedication of advocates, restrictions on contaminants, protective laws including programs to improve reproductive success and survival, they have made a comeback. The Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007 but remains endangered in California.

What can the public do if they are concerned? Call the Department of Fish & Wildlife and/or Pacific Gas & Electric and ask about the tree slated to be cut which holds an active bald eagle nest, just days before early nesting season officially begins in California. Donations may be made privately to fund the independent Arborist.  

California Department of Fish & Wildlife media has been contacted for a statement and has not returned a comment prior to publication of this letter

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The property owners were unable to provide a statement at this time.

As the nest is visible from the road, you may enjoy seeing the tree if it’s still standing at 19261 Ridgeway Hwy in Potter Valley. For more information or to come to visit the tree and discuss helping or if want to support the tree from being cut you may email


Written by Keri Ann Bourne, on my way to the site Potter Valley 

Voice or text 707-397-0155 keriannbourne@gmail.com

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  1. Save the Eagle Tree ! = Save the Next Generation of this breeding Bald Eagle Pair.
    This, as well stated by the author of this letter, is EXTREMELY UNTIMELY to do anything to this nest.
    This pair of breeding bald eagles have raised generations of Bald Eagle fledglings !
    There are plenty of alternatives to chopping down the whole “ Eagle Tree” , no one is building anything around it.
    PG and E is on a CYA mission.

  2. Seriously??? Why would you want to cut down a tree that is home to a bald eagle? These are beautiful majestic birds. They worked hard on that nest. Please don’t take away their home. Live and let live. It’s just one tree! Could you please just leave the tree alone? Please?

    Praying for all Gods creation 🙏😭

  3. The tree is still standing but the tree cutters are coming back tomorrow. PG&E has had all summer and fall to trim the supposed threatening branches, but has left it until now as the eagles are bringing in nesting material.

  4. There was an Eagle nest on top of an old parking lot light on North State St. in Calpella. Mendocino Redwoods moved there chipping plant there and removed the nest from on top of the light. It was a perfect spot for the nest as no predator could climb up to the nest, Myself and others watch Eagles fledged there for over 20 years, it was a beautiful nest. Now the powers that be want to destroy another nest not too far from that one. Why?

  5. PG&E has WAAAAY too much power! (No pun intended) They had plenty of time to address this instead of trying to destroy their home right before nesting season!!! Even if they do back off for now, I hope people in the area keep their eye on the situation and maybe even document a hopefully successful season for the eagles, just to show how important this nest is. Also, be aware of the fact that on our property, PG&E wanted a tree cut down but agreed that a trim would enough, and It was trimmed. However, on a day we were not home, they came back and cut down the entire tree! Then basically said, “Whoops, a different crew must’ve done that. I do NOT trust them! Grrr

  6. Great idea Monica! Document this pair of eagles. An eagle cam pointed at the tree will hold PG&E accountable and alert someone via motion sensors. It may be that the “eagles” might woo us with their majesty. I’m already enamored with the pair. We need to connect with nature. This is a story we can all unite around. All except PG&E’s tree cutting crew.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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