Don's Jersey Birding: Only in New Jersey

Perhaps one of the most urban Eagle nests in the U.S. is in danger of being destroyed.
Photo by Myke Malzone

By Don Torino

Only in New Jersey can there be a toxic waste dump, a 660 million dollar construction project, and a pair of Bald Eagles nesting right on top of it all. And only in New Jersey can we have all the conflicting laws, lawyers, engineers, and government agencies trying to look out, defend and justify all their incompatible decisions.

All parties seem like they care and want to protect our national symbol, and yet  plans are on the drawing board to remove the Eagles nest in an attempt to clean up the toxic PCB’s that lie on the Superfund site and make way for a construction project that will create  much-needed jobs. 

Although it was us who set the comeback of the Eagles in motion more than 40 years ago with the introduction of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, we are having problems dealing with its success.

It is ironic that in an effort to clean up  the very thing that almost drove the Bald Eagle to extinction may be very thing to cause the Eagles of Ridgefield Park to lose their home.
Photo by Myke Malzone

Yes, Al & Alice, as the Ridgefield Park pair of Eagles are now known, did what we wanted them to do — make an almost miraculous comeback to the most heavily populated and industrialized area in New Jersey they could find. No one ever dreamed that Eagles could or would ever return to this kind of environment, never mind being able to raise 4 young over a two year period and are working on their third family as we speak. And yet, against all odds, here they are.

There are other Eagle nests in New Jersey, about 100 all tolled, but these birds are special. This is not just another nest, as if that was possible when talking about Bald Eagles.
They are, of course, the symbol of our nation but they are also our symbol of what is possible when we join together and do the right thing. Al & Alice reflect the lives of all of us when they decided to take up residence in a tough competitive place like New Jersey and not only survived but thrived here.

It is ironic that in an effort to clean up toxic waste, one of the very things that almost drove the Bald Eagle to extinction, the NJDEP may push these eagles from their home. The NJDEP seems to think that putting up a platform in place of the nesting tree will somehow make up for losing the nesting tree and all the habitat around it, but I don’t think anyone honestly believes that it is nothing more than a token attempt to  stand up for these two very special creatures.

Doing the right thing is not always easy or simple, but in the end that is all there really is.
Photo by Myke Malzone

Somehow, somewhere I have to and want to believe that there is help for Al & Alice. I want to believe that all parties can work together and bring better ideas to the table that will allow us to have jobs, a clean environment and still be able to honor keep one of the proudest and magical things that have ever happened to all of us, the return of the Bald Eagle.

Sometimes doing the right thing seems difficult and almost impossible but in the end doing the right thing is all there really is. If we lose our Eagles, if we find that we cannot or will not protect them, if we decide that the Eagle is no longer important enough, then what will that say about all of us? What will we as a society have to look forward to? And where and in what direction will that take the future of protecting and preserving our wildlife heritage.

Please write to Kathy Clark of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program,, and urge her and the State of New Jersey to help keep the Ridgefield Park Eagles nest from being destroyed.


Don Torino is the President of Bergen County Audubon Society.

Don's Previous Birding Exclusives:


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  • 1/17/2013 5:20 PM Tom Gorman wrote:
    I see there is a slight change to the Smithsonian link: The link seems to go to the last species viewed from elsewhere. If you are interested in more about the Red Squirrel, please click on the search button and then type the species name and click that when it appears.

    I was unaware that the link changes species

    Best regards
    Reply to this
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