A bald eagle stretches its wings on a log during the Bald Eagle Festival in 2012.

A delicate balance at eagle nesting ground

Chehalis Flats preservation area eyed up by residents' association

Each year, more eagles migrate to Harrison River than anywhere else in the world. They come to feast on the spawning salmon, fix their nests and lay their eggs.

It’s an amazing sight to take in throughout the early winter, as thousands of the raptors fill the treetops and take over the river in search of a meal.

So it’s no surprise that bird watchers, ecologists and nature lovers follow closely behind. The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival has become hugely popular, drawing in record numbers of attendants in past years. And as more curious humans flock to the area to take in the sights, by foot and by boat, the greater the infringement they pose.

Educational programming is included in the festival, for those who choose to attend. But the residents of the Harrison Mills area are busy working on even more ways to increase education, says Al Roberts, a member of the Harrison Mills Regional Association.

They are hoping to create a Chehalis Flats Bald Eagle and Salmon Preserve, as a way to educate visitors to the area about the importance of respecting the wildlife that lives there.

They have the support of renowned biologist David Hancock, and Dave Moore, executive director of the Fraser River Salmon Table. Both have agreed to speak at an upcoming open public meeting on the subject of a preserve area next weekend.

Roberts is hoping all interested parties from around the Fraser Valley will attend the meeting.

“Our approach is education,” Roberts said. “There are more eagles here than anywhere in the world. There are counts now to prove this.”

Their campaign is not meant to impose rules or fines, but to educate a wide range of groups and individuals who share the area, including outdoor sports clubs, fishermen, hunters and camera buffs.

The FVBEF has already donated $2,000 toward signs to be placed at various river access points, and the wording for those signs is currently being drawn up.

Hancock has written profusely on the need for preservation of then entire Harrison-Chehalis area. In a posting from his website (www.hancockwildlife.org) in November, he stresses the need for peace and quiet for the birds.

“The incredible gathering of bald eagles during each fall and winter needs not just food. They need peace and quiet and rest,” he wrote. “A bioenergetics study done 20 years ago showed that bald eagles cannot sustain their body weight, no matter how much they eat in a day, if they have to undertake wing-flapping flight for more than 28 minutes a day.”

To learn more, or to discuss the matter with key stakeholders, attend the public meeting on Saturday, Apr. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Harrison Mills Community Hall.

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