A group of conservationists and eagle researchers took a break in a day of review and discussion of the current status of bald eagles to honor Bryan Watts and Mitchell Byrd of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology.
Watts and Byrd—and the CCB itself—were recipients of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Recovery Champion awards for 2007. The luncheon presentation was a break in a day-long set of activities at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office at the Rice Center of Virginia Commonwealth University on June 12. That morning, Byrd and Watts had a group, including federal wildlife officials from offices in Washington, D.C., and Hadley, Mass., out on the James River to look at habitat used by bald eagles. After lunch, Watts gave a presentation on the strategic importance of the upper James and other areas of the Chesapeake Bay region. Such areas, he said, are important to migrating bald eagles from populations that nest along the entire Atlantic coast, from Florida up into the Maritime Provinces of Canada.
The day’s activity was typical of the work that earned Watts and Byrd recognition for their contribution to the comeback of bald eagles. Virginia-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers Joe McCauley and Karen Mayne prepared the documents nominating Watts and Byrd for the Recovery Champion award, in recognition of decades of work to bring back bald eagles on the east coast.
Watts’ presentation sparked a three-hour discussion among state and federal wildlife officials with Center for Conservation Biology staff and other conservationists, including representatives of VCU and the Richmond Audubon Society. The discussion centered on the need for amended federal policies to protect sensitive areas of eagle habitat within the Chesapeake Bay region in the wake of the June 2007 removal of the nation’s bird from the U.S. Endangered Species List.