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Voyageur's Best Features of 2006

Eagles Nest

Empty nest given a new home
Local efforts to preserve eagle nest land at Long Lake Conservation Center
by Carol Lindelien and Heidi Sunderman  |  February 21, 2006

Thanks to the effort and ingenuity of several locals, the perfect solution for an empty nest has been found.

A couple of years ago, Lee Sather, owner of a trailer park along the shores of Big Sandy Lake, noticed the large White Pine tree in his yard was dead. The trunk was starting to rot, and he was fearful the tree would one day fall onto the homes beneath it. Lee found his problem additionally complicated by the massive bald eagle’s nest which rested on top of the nearly 100 foot high tree. Federal law protects bald eagles and their nests, and he knew he would need permission to take down the tree.

The tree had been gradually dying over a period of time. The nest only showed up in the tree five years ago, shortly after a tree with an eagle’s nest was blown down in a storm just a quarter mile south of the trailer park. It is believed the eagles relocate their nests to stay in a localized area, not moving too far away from their home territory.

In March of 2005, Lee began to seek out the necessary permission to cut down the precarious pine. He started by applying for a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Service. They investigated the need to take down the tree. Ultimately, the investigation came to the DNR and Brent Speldrich, Conservation Officer for the area. He met with Lee to check out the situation. Brent determined that the tree was in fact dead and did pose a threat to the structures beneath it. The process then started rolling to get permission to down the tree. 

It was not until January 2006 when the final permission was granted. The nest was empty at that time. If an eagle was using it, she will once again move to build a nest in another neighboring tree.

A few weeks before the scheduled event, Brent Speldrich, DNR Conservation Officer, offered his suggestion, “The nest could be saved for education,” he said. “Long Lake Conservation Center (LLCC) is only a few miles from the site, and there is a possibility of bringing the nest down intact and transporting it to the center.”

Todd Roggenkamp, LLCC’s director, was excited about the possibility of housing the nest at the campus. Plans began to determine the best way to get the nest safely down and transport it to Long Lake. 

Brent met with Lee Sather to discuss his idea. Lee had already contracted Ryan Forest Products to take the tree down. February 9, 2006, was the day scheduled for the downing of the tree. Brent and Lee contacted Jesse and developed a plan to get the nest down safely with the assistance of Jesse’s boom truck.

  On the scheduled date, the Aitkin County “Sentence to Serve” (STS) crew arrived to help with removing the downed limbs and other tasks. With both trucks available, the plan was revised to make it easier to get the nest down. The men got into the bucket and started rising up to the nest, continuing to cut off limbs as they climbed higher. Once at the nest, they trimmed around it and secured the top and limb portions to straps and ropes. A rope was placed through a pulley on the higher bucket which was then lowered to the ground. Both buckets were raised up again, the higher one without any occupants; the extra weight could create a problem when lowering the estimated 300-pound nest and the trunk it was attached to. 

The STS crew and others were ready on the end of the rope below to gently lower the nest. After a successful descent, the nest was secured to a trailer with boards and straps. 

Once at LLCC, another obstacle presented itself. The plan was to house the nest in the Great Hall at the North Star Lodge. The nest measured more than five feet wide and 10 feet tall with the trunk piece. The inner doors to the North Star Lodge were separate and a center column kept the largest opening at only three feet. Dave Conway, the Maintenance Coordinator at LLCC, contacted the builder to determine how to remove the center column from the double doors. This meant a day’s delay before the nest could reach its final destination. Dave devised a way to remove the column and took it out the next morning.

In the final stages of the project, LLCC maintenance propped the nest so that it would rest in an upright position. With additional STS crew help, the project was successfully completed. The majestic nest now rests on display for the admiration of all who come to Long Lake.

This article first appeared in the February 21 issue of the Voyageur Press.