BRATTLEBORO -- The transportation administrator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s second district said on Thursday there is no truth to a claim that highway work has the potential to harm an eagle nesting area in Rockingham.
Tammy Ellis also said trees are being cleared about 12 feet off the road from U.S. Route 5 and not on any town roads, as has been suggested. She said in addition to allowing more sunlight to hit the road to melt snow in the winter, clearing the trees will eliminate hazards caused by the falling of limbs during storms.
She said no work is being done on Missing Link Road -- like a local has claimed -- and no harm is being done to the environment.
"This happens every single time we take out a chain saw," she said in regards to the claims.
Loren Lorenzetti, of Rockingham, has told the Reformer work was being conducted near an eagle nesting area. He said he made some telephone calls to the highway department as well as state wildlife officials, which he said resulted in the work going on hiatus for the rest of the day. He said the land was donated to the state four years ago because it is a nesting area.
Forrest Hammond, a wildlife biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife, said he has heard the Route 5 tree-clearing is occurring at least a quarter-mile from the specific nesting area, which he said is along the Connecticut River in Rockingham. He said he plans to visit Missing Link
Lorenzetti said he believed a meeting between highway and wildlife officials was scheduled for Thursday morning but it has not been confirmed that any such meeting took place. Attempts to contact Lorenzetti on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Ellis said she was unaware if work was put on hold for a day following the phone calls Lorenzetti allegedly made to state officials.
She was unable to provide a specific distance the work is being done on but said it "goes up quite a ways" north toward Springfield.
Hammond said there are no specific laws restricting how work can be conducted around eagle nesting areas. He said, however, that it is important to cooperate with landowners to make sure they and the eagles have all necessary resources.
Hammond said he is "not overly concerned" about the situation in Rockingham but will look into it.
Though all birds of prey are protected by federal law, the bald eagle was downlisted from the federal endangered species list nearly 10 years, Hammond said. The biologist said, however, it is still on Vermont’s list.
He said there has been a very successful attempt to revitalize the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States.
"Eight years ago, there were no eagles in the state," he said on Thursday. "I just got a report that said there are now nine different nests that are being monitored.
"Every year, we’re finding more eagles in the state," he continued. "We’re very excited."
Hammond said eagles started nesting in a specific tree in Rockingham several years ago. It was the first time in about 70 years, he said, that the birds were making their home in Vermont. But the eagles were forced to find their new nesting area along the river when the tree blew down in a windstorm about seven years ago.
He said there are two young eagles at the site in Rockingham and three at the one in Springfield.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.