Tuesday, November 28, 2023

PG&E Concedes—the Potter Valley Pine Tree Stands—The Future of the Eagle’s Nest Remains Uncertain

One of the protestors that came to voice their opposition to the cutting of the tree [Picture provided by Keri Ann Bourne]

After a two-day stalemate between activists, property owners, and representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric, a Potter Valley Ponderosa pine tree containing a Bald Eagle’s nest will remain standing at least till August when the species’ mating season ends. 

PG&E had identified the Ponderosa pine on Potter Valley’s Ridgeway Highway to be cut down after an analysis by their biologist and arborist because it threatened a nearby powerline. PG&E’s experts concluded the eagle nest within the pine to be inactive and the tree to be near death

Another protestors hat came to voice their opposition to the cutting of the tree [Picture provided by Keri Ann Bourne]

PG&E Spokeswoman Deanna Contreras told us that their biologist had determined the nest was inactive based on the idea that an active nest requires eggs or hatchlings within it. After concluding there were no eggs or hatchlings, PG&E reached an agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife to cut the pine tree before January 15, marking the official start of Bald Eagle mating season.

Activist and MendoFever contributor Keri Ann Bourne has been on site since the beginning of the controversy on Wednesday night when we published her call to action encouraging Mendocino County residents to contact their representative to protect the birds. 

Bourne, along with a tenant of the property, sought the perspective of an independent arborist who disagreed with PG&E’s conclusion that the tree was dead, stating it had at least five years of life left.

PG&E personnel dialoguing with protestors yesterday [Picture provided by Keri Ann Bourne]

Disagreeing with PG&E’s characterization of the nest as inactive, Bourne described speaking with multiple people on sight who witnessed an eagle gathering nest-making material indicating to them the nest was indeed active.

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Bourne said while on-site, she watched PG&E initially insist on going forward with the felling of the tree. Today, the company’s approach shifted and PG&E chose to seek solutions that would protect the pine tree while mitigating fire risk.

Initially, PG&E had been communicating with the property owners regarding the falling of the tree but as the January 15 deadline crept closer and PG&E workers were deployed to the site, By the time PG&E employees arrived, Bourne told us the property owner had decided the Bald Eagles had to be protected.

Standing in solidarity with the ponderosa pine that is home to the eagle’s nest [Picture provided by Keri Ann Bourne]

Spokeswoman Contreras described possible solutions going forward including the rerouting of the powerlines or potentially having to shut off power to the location.

Contreras told us candidly that today’s dialogue was PG&E working to be transparent, open to community input, and build trust. “We have full-time environmentalists at PG&E for a reason. We don’t want to disturb any wildlife or habitat.”

Bourne said she felt like the recent standoff was a win for the Bald Eagles but expressed concern for their unsure future predicting concerned community members would have to advocate for their conservation in August 2022 when the mating season is formally over. 

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  1. Thanks to Keri Ann and all those who showed up to Save the Eagle’s Nesting Tree !

    “ the company’s approach shifted and PG&E chose to seek solutions that would protect the pine tree while mitigating fire risk.”

    I completely DISAGREE that PG and E “chose to be transparent and seek solutions”. That is typical Corporate Spox – speak. The entire crew of Tree fellers with their equipment sat down at the Van Arsdale Bridge all day while we, the Eagle Tree Protectors were prepared to stay and let the clock run out on PG and E’s Jan 15 th Midnight deadline for cutting the tree down.
    They did not choose anything…..They did not have the Owners or Residents permission to bring in the equipment nor operators onto the Eagle Tree’ s Private Property.
    PG and E is going ahead with Plan B, which is threatening to put into action cutting off the utilities service to several senior citizens. Let’s see how far that strategy gets them ! The residents and landowner may be forced into paying for that BURIAL of a couple hundred feet of PG and E cable, a cost that they cannot afford. We already “passed the hat” just to make a Deposit for a Electrical Contractor to come out and make an official Estimate.

    The Landowner had not an official piece of paperwork for the Notice of this work to be done as of yesterday afternoon. PG and E finally coughed up a copy for the Residents that have lived there for 30 YEARS. Literally, 3 DAYS Notice when this work could have commenced months ahead of time before the Jan 15th Bald Eagle Breeding Season.

    PG and E could, easily themselves, pay for the burial of the section of line that serves ONE property. But they want The Eagle Tree gone, so they can take out a whole lot of other healthy Ponderosa Pine trees along Ridgeway Highway, which they are forbidden to do with nest in The Eagle Tree.


  2. PG&E had all summer and fall to deal with this tree. They didn’t inform the property owner until a week before the USFWS deadline for disturbing bald eagle nests, well after the birds had been in the nest. B -oth PG&E and the Family Tree contractors continually threatened the property owner while refusing to disclose any permit for disturbing the nesting tree. When requested to produce a copy of a permit, the PG&E head of forest security refused stating that a subpoena would be necessary. Such a document is in the public domain, however. So PG&E is being quite underhanded here. They continue to threaten to turn off power to the elderly residents, who had no control over the situation. Kudos to the brave property owner who reveres our national symbol – the Bald Eagles. – lowdownjaw

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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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