An abundance of wildlife, including numerous bald eagles, call Luminant’s sites and reclaimed land home. When Liberty Mine’s resident bald eagle pair returns this fall, they’ll find a few home renovations – most notably, a new nest location.
The eagles’ nest was recently moved away from mining activities to a new location on company property near Martin Creek Lake in Rusk County. The relocation was a collaborative effort between Luminant’s environmental team, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and avian experts at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.
“The eagles built their nest in 2015 near the company’s lignite coal mining operations. Although no longer listed as endangered, eagles are still protected and Luminant is required to maintain a 660-foot buffer with no mining activity around their nests,” said Pete Okonski, Luminant environmental specialist. “We want this eagle pair to thrive, so we began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and SFA several months ago to determine the new nest location and the best structure design to support the nest.”
Following permit approval by the federal agency, Luminant’s environmental team then began a 10-day monitoring period of the nest to ensure there was no eagle activity. With no eagles in sight, it was time for moving day.
“The nest was integrated into the top branching system of a 70-foot loblolly pine tree, which meant we needed to find a way to keep the nest intact,” said Sid Stroud, Luminant environmental manager. “After cutting away the extra limbs, we removed and transported the section of the tree with the nest and secured it on top of a platform made out of repurposed utility poles. This new vantage point provides the eagles with excellent visibility for locating fish and other prey.”
The nest, which is nearly four feet in diameter or approximately the size of semi-truck tire, is now located over 1,000 feet from the old nest site and is far removed from mining activities. According to Okonski, the relocation effort took innovation and teamwork to new heights.
“The entire project was extremely impressive. To see the way our teams and employees worked together, you would think we performed nest relocations on a regular basis,” Okonski said. “We take great pride in our reclamation practices, including our wildlife recovery, enhancement and management programs. We’re hopeful that the eagles will decide to make this new location their permanent home.”
Environmental employees will monitor the nest for eagle activity this fall and for eaglets in the spring.
“We’re respectful of the eagles and other wildlife that live at our facilities and reclaimed land,” Stroud said. “Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in eagle numbers across several of our sites. They truly are a majestic bird.”
Bald Eagle Highpoints: According to the National Eagle Center, the average bald eagle nest is four to five feet in diameter. Each year, the adult pair will add up to two feet of new material to the nest. The largest recorded nest, located in St. Petersburg, Fla., was nearly 10 feet in diameter, 20 feet deep and weighed nearly three tons.