EAST COUNTY — Being a neighbor to a pair of bald eagles isn’t cheap.
Businesses that may disturb an eagle’s nest to the extent the birds may permanently leave must make monetary contributions to conservation efforts and obtain permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Although passers-by see concrete walls and roofs taking shape of the People Delivering Quality (PDQ) chicken chain, located on Lena Road, they may not know the restaurant chain sits within 300 feet of a bald eagle’s nest.
PDQ developer Blackrock Development Holdings paid $35,050 to build the restaurant at the location. The money will be distributed to county projects and resources, including projects at Robinson Preserve, which received $22,525 of Blackrock’s contribution.
“Construction taking place within 330 feet or fewer from a nesting site require donations in the $35,000 range,” said Angela Williams, protected species permit coordinator for the commission.
The regulations that define which projects warrant permits are listed in the Bald Eagle Management Plan (BEMP). The plan’s goal is to establish conservation actions that will maintain a stable or increasing population of bald eagles in Florida by preventing at least 10% of the number of eagle nest territories from being destroyed.
Regulations and education are at the core of the plan’s methods for accomplishing its goals, the plan states.
Circumstances requiring permits include those that alter shorelines, aquatic habitats or other wetlands and activity that may cause a disturbance that lies within 660 feet of an eagle’s nest.
Since 2008, Manatee County has issued seven bald eagle disturbance permits — one-third of the 21 active eagle nest territories in the county, said Michelle van Deventer, bald eagle plan coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Nest removal, though, is rarely given the OK, and also requires a permit, van Deventer said.
Blackrock Development owner Tim Vining recommends developers avoid construction around nests during nesting season, October through May, so birds don’t have to migrate to other sites.
“We want to keep the eagle population up and avoid disturbing the eagles as much as we can,” van Deventer said. “But, we also want people to be able to build and expand their businesses. We have to minimize the impacts on the animals’ habitats.”
The bald eagle has not been on the endangered species list since 2007, but state and federal laws still protect it.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at firstname.lastname@example.org