Let the Bald Eagles Fly
by Gabor Hardy
Today there are plans underway in Onondaga County, state of New York, to build a pathway around the perimeter of Onondaga Lake which is in Syracuse, New York. Much has been constructed and the end is near. However, there is a twist to this story. Basically, this pathway is designed for leisure, exercise, relaxation and overall enjoyment of people everywhere who wish to visit the shores of this wonderful lake. However, there is a barrier to this story that is supposed to have a happy ending. It involves the final completion of a secondary trail that goes onto Murphy’s island – an appendage of Onondaga Lake. This small (one half mile or two) trail is scheduled for construction starting in late spring of 2019.
The problem with these plans is the fact that the proposed trail will be going directly through the habitat or roost area of the bald eagles (there are as many as 35). Eagles are known to have a greater fear of the human form than they have for cars, trains, or airplanes.
Various perspectives are offered; these perspectives translate into many pro and con positions.
Some pro positions are:
A) The freedom of individuals to roam where they want supersedes the needs of bald eagles
B) We need this trail for the benefit of bikers and runners
C) Bald Eagles are tough birds and will adjust
D) No great danger because the trail will be closed for a few months out of the year when the Bald Eagles are roosting
E) We need this trail in order to complete our plan for a pathway leading all around the lake
A) The eagles will permanently leave this area due to human disturbance
B) Murphy’s island is polluted, so why build on it?
C) Even if you close the trail human beings will venture on the pathways – thus creating more expense by hiring security guards
D) Practically all bird experts agree that the pathway is way too close to the Eagle roost
E) Building an observation platform will satisfy those who come to look at Bald Eagles, yet far enough away so that they will not be scared away.
F) Constant disturbance of the Bald Eagles will deplete their reservoir of energy resulting in loss of body weight
There is an important consideration that is often overlooked in discourses concerning animals. It is that animals do not speak, read, or write English or any other human language. We (human people) stand in for their feelings, concerns, and needs. What becomes rather important then – are authentic voices. By an “authentic” voice I mean those individual humans who spend their lives studying the life cycles of these magnificent birds. It is to the “experts” that the legislature, ecological groups, and all other parties who have a vested interest in this trail should look to for answers. It makes sense to give priority to the experts in the field of eagle behavior because most of us have not had the time or the knowledge to study these birds and hear their language.
So, why is this not done? Very often the opinions of experts are ignored, disputed, or taken out of context. Too often the lure of wealth obscures clear thinking as well. If we establish the common ground that bald eagles are worthy of protection, that bald eagles are an endangered species (at least here in Onondaga county), or that Bald Eagles are a distinct asset to this region – then why not err on the side of caution? This county can build a viewing platform or simply not build a trail at all. These two courses of action are a small price to pay because the payoff is significant: the eagles will continue to make their home by the shores of Onondaga Lake.
Bald Eagles are wild creatures. As such, I have no doubt that, if asked, they would say that they prefer solitude and undisturbed areas where they can live and breed. Their habitats at one time encompassed practically the whole USA. Over the years the areas where Bald Eagles can roost has dwindled significantly. Is it not our responsibility … even our moral obligation to give these Bald Eagles a haven of rest? This county should NOT build a trail on Murphy’s Island but should proceed with plans to build a viewing station at the end of the Creekwalk. The viewing station would be close enough to Murphy’s Island to observe the eagles but far enough away to avoid disturbing them. Is it not time to defer to the needs of our wild brethren?
This article was provided by Linda DeStefano and written by Gabor Hardy. Gabor is a member of the board of People for Animal Rights. PAR is one of the organizations helping Save the Bald Eagles of Onondaga Lake. If you want more information about PAR, contact us at PO Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) 08 a.m.-10 p.m. Go to our website at peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.