Juneau’s eagle nest buffers scrapped on 5-4 vote

Protections for eagle nests have been removed from Juneau’s land use code following action by the Juneau Assembly that came down to a single vote.

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The old rules created a no-building buffer spanning from 50 to 350 feet from an eagle’s nest depending on the time of year and other factors.

An adult eagle and immature eagle perch in a tree. (Photo courtesy Skip Gray)

Late last year, city staff argued that with too few federal biologists to plot the nest locations, the ordinance had become difficult to enforce.

The amendment was made over the objections from some Assembly members.

“We do have a healthy bald eagle population in the area,” Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl said at Monday’s meeting. “The notion that removing their reproductive habitat more easily will not impact that ignores and gets wrong how reproductive habitat works. Especially with something like a bald eagle, which uses the same nests in the same trees, over and over and over again.”

Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis brushed off this criticism. He noted that tree work in recent years near the State Department of Transportation facility near Mile 7 on Glacier Highway seemed to invite even more eagles to roost.

“I think if you want to look at eagles, they are still around and in fact, they are taking advantage of some of the activity that our community is engaged in,” Nankervis said.

The motion passed 5-4 with Kiehl, Rob Edwardson, Maria Gladziszewski and Loren Jones dissenting.

A similar effort to scrap eagles’ nest buffers failed in 2012 following public outcry.

No one spoke at Monday’s public hearing.