Council likes eagle tree penalties

Mayor Walter Jakeway put forward a motion directing city staff to report back to council on options

Council endorsed tough penalties for anyone who cuts down an eagle tree at last week’s council meeting.

Mayor Walter Jakeway put forward a motion directing city staff to report back to council on options for a bylaw that will include fines for any property owner who illegally chops down a tree harbouring an eagle’s nest.

Jakeway was prompted by an incident that happened last winter.

“It was more than a year ago that a fairly substantial eagle tree was cut down near Rockland Road,” Jakeway said. “At that time it was discovered that we didn’t have any teeth to our bylaw and I haven’t heard any feedback from staff in the past year on this and I don’t want it to slip away.”

The mayor said the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society’s (MARS) annual Eagle Fest, held three weekends ago at the Maritime Heritage Centre, was a reminder that the community has a responsibility to look after the eagles.

“We need to make something happen here so we don’t end up with another terrible event like we had a year ago,” Jakeway said.

Last year’s incident involved a property owner cutting down an active bald eagle nest tree on the ridge south of Rockland Road. The tree was registered in the province’s nest tree database and mapped in the city’s Sustainable Official Community Plan as an environmentally sensitive area and was protected under the Provincial Wildlife Act. Currently, the province is in charge of enforcing eagle nest tree protection and levying any fines while the city simply uses permit guidelines to restrict a property owner from causing a disturbance within a 60-metre area around an eagle nest. However, the city does not have fines or penalties written into law.

Coun. Ron Kerr said he agreed eagles need protection but cautioned council against being too stringent and putting up barriers to development.