The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 4, 2013

Bob Garrett's column: Eagle flies high


Daily Item

---- — This Fourth of the July, the American Bald Eagle is flying high.

With more than 250 nesting pairs now accounted for in our state, another high point is being celebrated in one of our nation's most-successful conservation stories. This year marks the 30th anniversary year of the efforts to restore bald eagle populations in Pennsylvania.

Already our national symbol, eagles are a fitting reminder of our nation's strength and freedom. Now, thanks to this remarkable comeback, the bald eagles that call our valley home also symbolize the resiliency of the American spirit to each of us.

So far this year, 252 eagle nests have been confirmed throughout our state, with nesting eagles present in 56 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Did you know that your family can be part of this conservation success story?

If you spot an eagle nest that you don't think has been previously identified, you may contact the Game Commission through its public comments email address at pgccomments@pa.gov, and use the words "Eagle Nest Information" in the subject line. If you do come across a nest, please do your best to keep your distance. Disturbing eagles is illegal under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Some nesting pairs are tolerant of human activity, while others are much more sensitive. Their reaction to you may depend on the activity that you're doing, the nesting cycle stage, and if the eagles are used to seeing people.

n A little more down to Earth

Are you looking for a great outdoor activity to do today? In New Berlin, they will be racing turtles starting at 1 p.m. The New Berlin Turtle Derby has been around for just about a half century.

Kids can register to race a turtle, if they've been lucky enough to find one. Later this afternoon, there will be cow plop bingo and lots of other fun activities for the whole family. Tonight at 10 p.m., there will be a huge fireworks display in the Commons.

n Take a hike

On Saturday, the Seven Mountains Audubon will host a local flora and fauna field trip. Everyone is welcome and to tag along, just meet at 7:30 a.m. in CVS side parking lot in Lewisburg along Route 192, just west of Route 15. A great way to wrap up your long Fourth of July weekend might be to join the Sierra Club for their Sunday morning hike.

This week, the hikers will be up in the R.B. Winter State Park and the Bald Eagle State Forest for a 10-mile, moderate to strenuous loop hike. Joe Rebar (570-259-0134) is the hike leader. If you can go along, please meet in the parking lot at the dam breast of Halfway Lake at 8:30 a.m.

n Pigs tabled, again

A new state law went into effect last week that prompted the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners to put on hold on the regulations that they were considering for feral swine and wild boars.

You wouldn't think that wild and feral pigs would be so controversial, but these non-native critters escape every now and then and can make real pests out of themselves. The animals are prolific breeders and once escaped, they can quickly establish big wild populations that are destructive to native wildlife species and their habitats.

With their action, the commissioners bought some additional time to figure out their next move. In a nutshell, the new law transferred the responsibility for all "swine" to the Department of Agriculture and relieved the Game Commission of this burden. Stay tuned, I suspect that we will be hearing much more from these wild pigs.

n Democracy is a participant sport

Do you have something that you would like to say to the Game Commission? Good, here's your invitation to say it. Every commission meeting includes a public comment period and you're invited to come to the meetings and say your piece. Upcoming meetings are tentatively planned for August 12 in Harrisburg, September 23-24 in Delmont and the first meeting in 2014 will be held January 26 through 28 in Harrisburg.

The August 12 meeting is a working session, but you may still attend.