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German American club disputes bald eagle nest violation

By Staff | Dec 10, 2008

The bald eagle is making a comeback, but state and federal rules regulating activity around nesting eagles are still in place — a source of contention between the German American Social Club of Cape Coral and city staffers.
Bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list in June 2007 but are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act recommends avoiding loud noises within a half-mile of a nest during the nesting season.
The city claims that the German American Social Club could be in violation of these federal guidelines if it holds large, outdoor concerts during nesting season, which lasts from October to April.
The president of the German American Social Club, Gerhard Veith, stated that the city is trying to enforce state and federal laws.
“They interject themselves into an issue that only the state or the feds can handle,” Veith said.
Since the fall of 2004, two eagles have nested near the German American Social Club’s property at 2101 S.W. Pine Island Road. Loud activities near nests are discouraged during the nesting season as the birds are particularly sensitive to noise.
Although the German American Social Club has received a special exemption to hold its annual Oktoberfest celebration on its premises since 2004, the club also held a Hispanic Celebration on Oct. 11, prior to this year’s Oktoberfest, and plans to host more events within the nesting season.
The city sent the German American Social Club a letter last week informing the group that it could be in violation of the federal protections, which could bring a maximum $200,000 fine, up to a year in jail or both if the eagles are disturbed.
Veith responded by saying that the club is not in violation of the regulations. He pointed out that the city also has loud activities in close proximity to an eagle’s nest.
“We are abiding by both (federal and state) of those rules,” Veith said.
During Monday’s city council meeting, Veith noted that eagles nest near Eagle Skate Park, located on Southwest Sixth Place off of Skyline Boulevard.
During the meeting Mayor Jim Burch urged the need to work out a solution to the issue.
“We need to try to diffuse this,” he said.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini stressed the need for face-to-face contact between staff and the German American Social Club to avoid confusion over the issue.
“They (the German American Social Club) may have some misconceptions. The communication is being done through mail and phone calls and sometimes that comes up,” she said.
City staffers could not be reached Wednesday for comment.