Berry College has been working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for the past seven months to maintain environmental sensitivity at the nesting site.
The issue has facilitated considerable discussions concerning construction of a new football stadium at Berry. Just last week, the college revealed a major gift to kick off the fund raising for the new stadium, which will be named Valhalla.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued Berry College a permit to move forward with the stadium, which essentially allows the college some leeway if they disturb the eagles at the nest site.
Carmen Simonton, chief of the migratory bird permit office for the Southeast Region said that “disturbance” means that the college could undertake activity that might cause the eagles from breeding, feeding or roosting.
The college, however, cannot disturb the nest itself and according to the permit, is being required to, “plant 208 native species of hardwood and evergreen trees on all sides of the eagle nest area.” A tree buffer plan was signed July 30, 2012, to provide a potential noise and lighting buffer for the eagle nest area.
“We want to protect the eagles and we’ve already taken steps to ensure that,” said Christine Reinolds Kozelle, Berry director of news and editorial services. She said Berry has moved the footprint of the stadium in a bid to accommodate the eagle activity and has reduced the proposed seating capacity of the stadium.
“Its neat for us to be able to say we have eagles on campus,” said Berry legal counsel Danny Price.
If the pair mates successfully, the female should drop anywhere from one to three eggs sometime around Thanksgiving. The incubation period is 35 days, meaning if the pair is successful, young should hatch close to Christmas.
“We’re excited about the eagles being here, as we have been since the very beginning,” Kozelle said. “We’re going over and above to make sure that we comply with every rule and regulation and have been proactive with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do this the right way. We’re already doing more than what the permit requires.”
The college has agreed to establish an eagle conservation area suitable for bald eagle nesting which includes no less than 10 acres with an open mature canopy of native pine trees within two miles of a permanent body of water on the Berry campus.
The eagle conservation area will be established for a minimum of 10 years through a memorandum of understanding with the Georgia DNR. If eagles do not nest within that area for 10 consecutive years the MOU will expire and the conservation area will not be protected any longer.
Berry is planning to kick off its first football season in the fall of 2013 which means that work on the new stadium will need to commence soon.
Berry plans to release details regarding the proposed stadium site along with architectural rendering in a few weeks.
Price and Kozelle each said that timing for construction of the stadium would depend entirely on the success of ongoing fund raising efforts.