Expanded Highway Could Threaten Eagle Habitat (Audubon Magazine)
Every November thousands of Bald Eagles descend on the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, 48,000 acres of protected land surrounded by white-capped mountains in Haines, Alaska. The eagles flock to feast on a late run of spawning salmon in a low-lying part of the Chilkat River that remains ice-free through the winter. Along with the eagles come roughly 250 birdwatchers, many for the annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival, which runs from November 10th - 16th this year, during which visitors take daily trips to the Preserve to witness the majestic birds up close.
But a cloud hangs over this year's festivities--a new proposal to expand the Haines Highway, a road that cuts through the Preserve, threatens both the habitat and the food sources the Bald Eagles need to thrive. A scenic byway that stretches from Haines, Alaska to Canada's Yukon Territories, the Haines Highway spends around 22 twisty miles cutting through the Preserve. With its 55 mph speed limit, the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have deemed some of it too dangerous in its current curvy state. They hope to expand and straighten a 21.8-mile section--15.8 of which is in the preserve--to improve both safety and visibility for drivers. A straighter road would also increase safety for trucks DOT speculates will come with the increased mining operations across Alaska and Canada, and a proposed natural gas pipeline.
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