Priorities: One Of The World’s Most Important Bald Eagle Nesting Sites May Be Replaced By Golf Resort

Virginia is right in the heart of America’s golf country, so it probably comes as no surprise to learn that Richmond County already has several sprawling golf courses. Now they want one more. And they want to place it in a region that is famous as one of America’s biggest, and most crucial, bald eagle nesting sites.

The corporation who owns the land on which the nesting site sits plans on destroying much of the scenic area and replacing it with an 18-hole golf course, a big resort building, and a new (pricey) housing development for those whose bank account allows them to live right there on the links.

According to opponents of the plan, there are a lot of good reasons not to develop the land and turn it into yet another unneeded golf course.

Opponents such as the Chesapeake Conservancy and Friends of the ­Rappahannock say wiping away hundreds of trees will destroy the scenery that Smith viewed before English settlers arrived.

Even worse, they say, a resort that would take years to build could permanently damage one of the most important gathering places for eagles in the Chesapeake Bay region. Hundreds of eagles live there, and as many as 20,000 visit to feed on shad, herring and blue catfish as they migrate between Canada and South America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, also has expressed concern.

Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, put it more matter-of-factly: “This is a global hot spot,” he told the Washington Post. “There’s no other place on the continent like the Chesapeake Bay for eagles.”

And the positives another golf course would bring: a few golfers who are bored of the other three golf courses nearby have another place to tee off?

The bald eagle, long America’s national symbol, were nearly driven to extinction by hunting and pollution. Their numbers have only recently begun to recover. Just eight years ago, the species was removed from the endangered species list, and the population appears to finally be stabilizing. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can afford to get complacent. One of the reasons the bald eagle recovered as well as it did is because while they were protected, their nesting sites and feeding areas were doggedly protected. To erase one of the most major on the east coast, may in fact deal them a heavy blow.

Backers of the golf course say the land development will bring in more tax revenue, however, locals pointed out that destroying the bald eagles’ nesting area and decimating the land tourists come to see will ultimately negatively affect the bottom line.

This wouldn’t be the first time recently that an irreplaceable wildlife area will have been destroyed for corporate interests. In Florida, a Walmart Supercenter was thrown up smack in the middle of a crucial patch of ancient forests that biologists warned contained dozens of animal species found nowhere else on the planet. All of it will be replaced with an animal species that America has quite an abundance of: Walmart shoppers hunting for bargains.

Whether it is bald eagles or Florida forests, we are reminded that land containing important national treasures ought to be protected. While corporations may lick their chops at the sight of undeveloped land, what’s already on it may be infinitely more valuable. Despite this obvious depredation of the land, lawmakers have recently been seriously toying with the idea of getting rid of all public land and letting the “free market” decide what happens. It doesn’t take much imagination to dream up the horror show that would play out if it happened.

Feature image via Steve Jurvetson/Flickr