Michael Amaral, USFWS: 603/223-2541
Jane Vachon, NHF&G: 603/271-3211
Julie Klett, N.H. Audubon: 603/224-9909
February 23, 2005
Fund Established to Protect Merrimack River Bald Eagle Habitat
CONCORD, N.H. - A new fund to help conserve bald eagle habitat along the Merrimack River is being established through a joint effort involving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire Audubon and the office of Senator John Sununu. Parties with land development projects that include the river's shoreline may be eligible to contribute to the fund as a final step in satisfying environmental requirements for development.
The Bald Eagle Habitat Conservation Fund is part of an agreement between P.D. Associates and LaMontagne Builders, the federal Fish & Wildlife Service and N.H. Fish and Game regarding construction of condominiums on land near the Merrimack River in Manchester used as wintering habitat by bald eagles. Bald eagles are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and state law. Under the agreement, the residential units will be built, but the developers have agreed -- in addition to donating to the conservation fund -- to on-site measures to minimize the impact on eagles.
"Senator John Sununu's office was instrumental in bringing together development and conservation interests to reach this resolution," said Michael Bartlett, Supervisor of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's New England Field Office. "As a rule, we strive to protect bald eagle habitat wherever it occurs. At the same time, we work to accommodate development whenever possible. Because the parcels proposed for these recent developments were so small, however, the usual measures we take to accommodate both eagle habitat and development simply were not practical, so we devised a more novel solution."
"This is a perfect example of how government, conservation, and business partners can work together to find creative, mutually beneficial solutions to the problem of habitat loss and degradation in the state," said David Houghton, President of New Hampshire Audubon. "We recognize that people want to live and work near the Merrimack River because of its abundant wildlife and its natural beauty. So it makes good ecological and economic sense to conserve this critical habitat."
New Hampshire's portion of the Merrimack River from Franklin south to Nashua provides essential wintering habitat for a large number of American bald eagles. Ideal eagle habitat offers patches of forest near open water, so they can perch, rest, seek shelter at night and have access to fish and ducks for food. This month, N.H. Audubon staff and volunteers confirmed at least 23 bald eagles wintering along the Merrimack in Manchester and surrounding towns. In January, they counted at least 55 bald eagles wintering statewide. The state also hosts eight known nesting territories during the summer.
As the water quality of the Merrimack River improves, its appeal increases for both wildlife and people. Development along the banks of the Merrimack River is now encroaching on some of the riparian forest habitats used by the state's wintering bald eagles. This is not always a good mix, as eagles need space, and people, particularly pedestrians at close range, can cause the birds to leave their feeding and resting areas.
"Conflicts are bound to occur when you are protecting rare species in a fast-growing state like ours," said Lee Perry, Executive Director of the N.H. Fish and Game Department. "The best way to prevent future conflicts is to keep common species common, which is why we're working with partners in the conservation community to create a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan for New Hampshire. This will give us a strategic blueprint to guide efforts to maintain and, when necessary, restore wildlife populations and the habitats upon which they depend."
The Bald Eagle Habitat Conservation Fund established today will be used to help to conserve some of these special places. The fund will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a Congressionally authorized, nongovernmental grant agency, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). N.H. Fish and Game and N.H. Audubon will work closely with USFWS to identify conservation needs and decide how the fund can best be used to protect bald eagle habitat. Funds could be used, for example, to acquire conservation easements or assist landowners in managing their riverfront forest to promote continued use by eagles.
New Hampshire Audubon is an independent, statewide
membership organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and
habitat throughout the state through research, land protection, environmental
policy and environmental education. Visit www.nhaudubon.org
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department works to conserve, manage and protect the state's fish and wildlife and their habitats. Its Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, established in 1988, is the steward for over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Click here for more information on the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and
enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit www.fws.gov.