Federal agency investigates removal of eagle nest near Sitka

SITKA — U.S. wildlife officials are investigating the removal of a federally protected eagle nest from land being developed near Sitka after the public raised concerns.

The tree containing the nest stood near the Rocky Gutierrez Airport on Alice Island, where Shee Atika Corp. sought permission to develop a subdivision, the Sitka Sentinel reported Wednesday.

The company’s website said the tree was recently removed with a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which grants them in some circumstances.

“No eagles were present and no eagles were harmed during the nest removal process,” the statement said.

Andrea Mederios, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, did not say whether a permit had been issued at the site and declined to provide further details.

“In order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we cannot talk about the case,” Mederios said in an email to the newspaper.

The tree is mentioned in documents from an August 2015 Sitka Planning Commission meeting when Shee Atika requested approval for the subdivision. The request was pulled before a commission review, but planning department staff wrote a report about the site.

It said “a juvenile eagle and nest” had been observed “in an existing tree north to the Sealing Cove Business Center.” The report also noted that the company knew about eagle nest regulations and was “actively pursuing the necessary permits, permit conditions, and complying with state and federal law.”

Staff recommended that approval be granted only if Shee Atika complied with laws around eagle breeding areas.

Bald eagles are protected under the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits disrupting an eagle’s normal breeding or sheltering behavior.

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