BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado nonprofit organization is suing U.S. Fish and Wildlife for granting a permit to a developer planning to build hundreds of apartments close to a bald eagle’s nest.
The nest, home to a pair of bald eagles, is near Stearns Lake in Broomfield. It sits high atop a tree about 600 feet from the land where The Garnett Companies, based in Indiana, has been approved to build an apartment complex.
“They’re very special to me,” Dana Bove, a member of the Front Range Nesting Bald Eagles Studies (FRNBES) group, said of the eagles.
FRNBES is a nonprofit group dedicated to the study and conservation of nesting bald eagles, golden eagles and other raptors in the Front Range region of Colorado.
Bove has volunteered with the organization for years, keeping a close eye on the Stearns Lake eagles since their nest was built in 2010.
“We record their behavior, where they are, what direction they’re flying, and take photographs,” he explained to CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Bove is concerned construction on the apartment complex will disturb the eagles and force them to abandon their nest.
“And at the same time, these birds lay eggs,” Bove said. “It could be potentially disastrous.”
According to the lawsuit, FRNBES claims the permit USFWS granted to the developer authorizes the disturbance of the Stearns Nest, which violates the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The lawsuit says such a disturbance will “decrease the occurrence of future sightings of eagles” by groups such as FRNBES, “negatively impacting their ability to observe, photograph, and study the eagles.”
It will also alter the birds’ activity patterns and biological functions, such as breeding and nesting.
FRNBES also claims the USFWS failed to provide any notice and public comment opportunity concerning its authorization of the permit. Had that been provided, the lawsuit reads, it “would have resulted in [FRNBES] submitting extensive, science-based comments advocating that USFWS deny this permit or at least impose far more stringent and empirically-based permit conditions to avoid harm to these eagles.”
Bove believes USFWS should have considered Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s research and recommendations about building near eagles’ nests.
“Their guidelines are at this time of year no new construction, no new activity within a half mile of the nest,” he said.
In a phone call to CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann, the vice president of development for The Garnett Companies said they share many of the same concerns about protecting the eagles.
“We want to do the right thing,” Ken Koziol said. “That’s why we’re working with the city, state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.”
In fact, Koziol said, his company received a letter from Colorado Parks and Wildlife thanking them for their consideration of the eagles and efforts to keep them safe. That includes delaying the project until late March after the birds’ eggs hatch, building a 12-foot hay bale sound wall and keeping a biologist on site during construction.
“I would like to thank the Garett Company for their patience and willingness to adjust their schedule to accommodate the needs of this particular nesting pair,” the letter from CPW Area Wildlife Manager Larry Rogstad read. “It is always great to work with folks trying their best to do right for natural resources!”
Koziol also said they will have an education program for all the workers so they, too, can be aware of the nearby eagles.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Koziol said.
Though he appreciates those efforts, Bove fears it won’t be enough and the eagles will leave the community that’s grown to love them.
“There are so many people who come here that absolutely love these eagles,” he said. “I think they’re very special to this community.”
CBS4 reached out to USFWS regarding the lawsuit and how it could impact the project, but a spokesperson said they couldn’t comment due to pending litigation.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.