Empty nest given a new home
Local efforts to preserve eagle nest land at Long Lake
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
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
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.