Buy one, get one free! That’s right, folks, you get TWO home sites for the price of one, both with an expansive and expensive waterfront view.
And one already has a home built on it!
But not for long. Because that already-built home is an active and well-established bald eagle nest. . .and it will not last long once home construction starts within 330′ of it.
In fact, 330′ is the minimum distance buffer zone proposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, because “[b]ald eagles exhibit greater sensitivity to disturbance when activities occur within full view of a bird.” So if the birds can see what’s going on, the distance buffer is doubled to “660′ for most activities.” (NYS Bald Eagle Protection Plan, 2015, p. 31).
However, home construction is not included in these guidelines for “most activities”
That’s because the NYS Bald Eagle Conservation Plan (2015) recognizes construction of any building a unique circumstance that warrants its own set of guidelines. Quoting from p. 33 of the Plan, “Construction of new buildings, roads, utilities or other permanent structures is not recommended within ¼ mile, or 1320 feet of an eagle nest, if there is no visual buffer.”
“If a visual buffer exists and the activity/feature is not visible from the nest, such activities should not occur within 660 feet of the nest site.”
What visual buffer? I don’t see one here on this property.
So, if I understand this correctly, 1320′ is the minimum distance for construction activities that occur within an eagle eye’s view, but it’s reduced to 660′ if it isn’t.
Even so, perhaps the developer could argue that maybe, just this once, this one home can slip through the regulatory cracks without causing much damage. I don’t think so. Because, there are other factors to consider.
What do residents of the lakefront do in their spare time — build docks? Go yachting? Or maybe go fishing, either from the dock or in an unmotorized boat? Or simply enjoy the water and the scenery from the dock or from a kayak or canoe?
These activities are innocent enough. . .as long as you do them while maintaining that 660′ distance buffer from your neighboring eagle’s nest.
Which is impossible unless your home is located well outside of that buffer. And clearly, any home built on this lot would not be.
It is my opinion (and I hope the opinion of the NYS DEC!) that this plot of land should never be approved as a potential home lot, regardless of whether the nest is currently active. Which it is.
Because if this nest is ever abandoned, it would become a secondary nesting site — and that would require protection.
According to the Plan, “. . .unoccupied or alternate nest sites also need to be protected from long-term disturbance with buffers, and should be considered part of the breeding territory [because] [a]lternate nests are frequently used in subsequent years” (p. 32).
Apparently this developer is fully aware of the protection he must enforce because a protective barrier was dumped here last summer (2019), providing the required 660′ of protection to this eagle nest.
But the rubble has since been removed, and a realtor’s sign has been placed there instead.
Did the NY DEC agree to this? Did they give the developer the green light to go ahead with plans to build on this lot? If so, why? I am awaiting their response to my query.
In the meantime, I don’t understand how, on October 16, 2020 at 8:39 a.m. (which is when I photographed the Keller Williams sign), a realtor actively sought buyers for a property that featured, along with a lakefront view, an active eagle nest.
I don’t understand how the developer AND the realtor (Cecilia Capezzuto for Keller Williams Realty, 585-924-5541) can do this, either morally, legally, or both. Maybe their vision is clouded by dollar signs. . .?
Here is where you can read the New York State Bald Eagle Protection Plan for yourself:
You can click links to federal regulations, including the Migratory Bird Act, from here, the US Fish & Wildlife Service:
The Migratory Bird Act also applies to protection of eagle nest sites, except for a brief period where it was “Trumped” in favor of big business. Thankfully, the courts overturned that suspension — and not a moment too soon. One observer wrote, “Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.” But here, read the opinion for yourself:
Update: Good news from the NYS DEC!
Correspondence with “Jenny” at the Avon office of the NYS DEC tells a little more of the story.
In addition to the Migratory Bird Act, the Lacey Act, and NY State’s own Plan, there are several state DEC regulations that serve to monitor and protect endangered species, including eagles. Obviously, the DEC cannot prevent or regulate the sale of property, including property that host endangered species, “but any development of those lots would likely require permits from NYSDEC, including a Part 182 jurisdictional determination.” Part 182 permits are not handed out lightly; the process is rigorous and the requirements stringent. In fact, Jenny reports that she recalls only two such permits being issued by the state of NY, “both of which involved projects with a public benefit (wastewater treatment for example) rather than just a private or commercial project.” Clearly, if this landowner (or future ones) apply for a permit to build upon this property, “the applicant would have to develop and implement a plan that demonstrates that eagles. . .are better off for them having implemented their project.”
So, it looks like it’s two home lots but only one home that will occupy this property. What a relief!
Many thanks to Jenny for her detailed attention to this issue! I’m glad that people like her work to protect the eagles and other wildlife in Wayne County, NY.