Letter: Tree that harbored eagles shouldn’t have been cut

Oct. 12, 2013 @ 11:41 PM

Editor,

True or false: A wedding ring is just a band of metal. An American flag is simply a rectangle of cloth. A tree is merely a tree even if its branches harbored a nest of bald eagles, our country’s national symbol, for two straight years.

Although I once thought Sevier Countians would answer “false” to all three questions, recent words and deeds may prove me wrong.

The eagle nesting site, a small grove of trees north of a strip mall parking lot on Highway 66, was readily visible from the lot’s perimeter. Each time I visited the area, other citizens were present to watch the eagles — uncaged and unfettered — soar, dive, fish or offer food to their fledglings. I doubt that anyone who witnessed these majestic birds at the nesting site would think that cutting down that tree is a good idea.

But apparently at least two Tennesseans feel otherwise. One, surprisingly, was a TWRA employee who commented that the nesting site being felled was not “holy.” He added that there were “many other trees in Sevier County.” Those who wanted the twice-used nesting tree preserved for the possibility of a third return were neither Druids nor fools unaware of Sevier County’s forests.

Instead, these folks were citizens awed by the fact that incredibly beautiful raptors, symbols of a great nation, selected a readily observable nesting site. Older Americans such as myself could marvel at the eagles’ comeback from the brink of extinction due to DDT use. Young parents could teach children about the birds’ symbolic ties to this country and its strength. Yes, the eagles will likely find another nesting spot — but now in hidden coves on private property where “trespassers are not welcome” signs rust in the shadows. What are the chances of viewing our nation’s symbol in such spots?

Equally disgusting was the printed commentary from a Mountain Press reader who facetiously suggested that a tree in his yard might at one time been a perching spot for an eagle, and would thus need federal protection. I hope this gentleman’s cynicism stays true in public — why bother to salute the American flag as it passes; it’s just a piece of cloth. Why bother to observe moments of silence following national tragedies? After all, stuff happens. Saluting a flag or observing silence for a brief moment is just as meaningless as keeping the currently vacated eagle nesting site available for possible use in coming years, at least according to the letter contributor’s credo.

Many thanks to the citizen(s) who took action upon learning that the nesting site was being made chainsaw fodder. I commend you for taking a physical stand against the removal of this tree — a stand so strong that police were sent “to keep the peace.”

Had the message regarding the nesting site’s endangerment been more widespread, I believe many other Sevier Countians would also have been present to protest this removal. 

Sincerely,

John Jessel