Loggers sentenced for disturbing bald eagle's nest - KCTV5 News

Loggers sentenced for disturbing bald eagle's nest

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Joe Gardner, 65, and his nephew, Michael Gardner, 54, will be on probation for two years. Joe Gardner, 65, and his nephew, Michael Gardner, 54, will be on probation for two years.

Two loggers were sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to cutting down trees that contained bald eagle nests.

Joe Gardner, 65, and his nephew, Michael Gardner, 54, will be on probation for two years.

Tom Bell, a biologist with the U.S. Fish as Wildlife Service, said the logic behind the laws protecting the bird are about more than just what it represents as a symbol of our nation.

"If you buy into the concept that there's a network of life," he said, "that it's interdependent and pretty much beyond any one person's complete understanding, you don't want to destroy parts of it without thinking."

It wasn't long ago, he said, that eagles were threatened with extinction. They survived, he said, because of conservation efforts and laws to back them.

"It was the bald eagle that brought about the end of the use of the chemical DDT," said Missouri Department of Conservation Agent Tammy Pierson.

Pierson works in the area where the nests were destroyed in 2010.

The farmers who owned that land, near Hardin, MO, hired the loggers to remove a row of Cottonwood trees. One had a nest that was more than a decade old. Another had a smaller nest that was in use by the mating pair that spring.

What troubles Pierson and Bell, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the lack of concern demonstrated.

"The owners of this land have come to me with other questions," Pierson said. "I wish they had contacted me."

"I have people call me about robin's nests," Bell added. "I can't do much about that. But I am glad they express concern. I explain to them that robin's build two or three nests every summer."

Eagles, on the other hand, are much more particular about the process. They don't start building in earnest until they are five years old, Bell said, and there are many restrictions, most notably size.

"These nests are enormous," said Pierson. "They can be 13 feet deep and 8 feet wide."

"Think of something the size of a standard double bed only much deeper," Bell said, "and it can weigh upwards of a ton. So they don't just build those overnight."

It can take one to two breeding cycles to build, Bell said, and they require especially large trees.

"We're not sure if they'll be able to relocate in the area," Pierson said of the nesting pair that used the two nests that were cut down. "A lot of the trees here that were suitable for a bald eagle's nest have been taken out in the process of this logging."

Nesting pairs, who mate for life, typically produce two to three young per year and keep multiple nests, choosing one or the other each year. There is another set of nests about 10 to 15 miles away, but it's not always as simple as moving into an unused nest nearby.

"They may run into another pair of eagles defending their territory," Bell explained, "so they may not nest for a year or two."

The logging company owner, Joe Gardner, was in the hospital at the time of the logging. His nephew, Michael Gardner, was the one who cut the trees. Michael Gardner and the farmers who hired him were ordered by the judge to perform 100 hours of community service each at the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge in Columbia, MO.

Bell manages that refuge. He hopes the time will give the offenders some appreciation for wildlife and the sentiment expressed by conservationist Aldo Leopold.

"He said the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts," Bell recalled. "That applies whether you're working on a lawn mower or an ecosystem."

The property owners, Ronald Gibson, 70, and his son, Todd Gibson, 49, were sentenced on Jan. 24. They received the same probation time plus a fine of $5,000 each. The fine was waived for the Gardners because of inability to pay.

To read previous coverage on this story, click here.

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