|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:00|
Portions of the Verde River and other public lands are now closed to foot and vehicle traffic in an effort to protect the nesting sites of bald eagles.
Boaters will still be allowed to pass along the river, but the U.S. Forest Service, along with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is asking people to be alert for areas they are prohibited to go ashore.
There are 21 areas across the state that will remain closed from now through Friday, June 15, in some places, Saturday, June 30, in others.
The efforts are aimed at protecting the 55 known pairs of breeding eagles that make Arizona their home. The bird is no longer on the federal list of endangered species, but several agencies work to make sure the animal and national symbol is protected and allowed to breed undisturbed.
“Some areas will be signed, other roads will be gated,” said Connie Birkland, spokeswoman for the Coconino National Forest. “There will also be notices posted along the river to let people know not to get out on shore.”
Birkland said the ban includes foot traffic along the river and surrounding wilderness as even a little bit of disruption can cause harm to the bald eagle’s nesting cycle.
In the surrounding area, the Verde River is closed to foot and vehicle traffic below the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness through June 15 around areas known as the Towers and the Ladders, Birkland said, although there will be some areas where people can still walk up to bluffs overlooking the river.
Similar restrictions exist in the Prescott National Forest near Chasm Creek and on the Tonto National Forest upstream of the East Verde confluence.
That closure is in effect until June 30.
Other areas closed along the Verde River through June 30 include the area around Mule Shoe Bend, below Horseshoe Dam, below Bartlett Dam and around the Needle Rock recreation area on the east side of the river.
The Federal Aviation Administration has also instituted a ban on aircraft flying below 2,000 feet over a nesting area.
Other protected nesting site locations are available from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which funds its eagle conservation efforts through lottery ticket sales.
“Bald eagles continue to do well in Arizona, but they are sensitive to human activity during the breeding season and it can take as little as 30 minutes of leaving the eggs uncovered for a breeding attempt to fail,” said Kenneth Jacobson, in charge of the Game and Fish Department bald eagle program and issuing the prohibition notices last week. “Cooperation from outdoor recreationists during the breeding season has been a major reason that the population continues to grow.”
Bald eagles will become noisy if someone is near their nest, according to the Game and Fish Department, and anyone who hears them vocalizing should leave the area immediately.
The state is also asking fishermen to take special care, as fishing line is found in many eagle nests and has killed at least two of the birds.
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