COLUMBIA, Conn. (AP / WTNH) — Independence Day traditions in one Connecticut town are clashing with an effort to protect an iconic symbol of the United States.
Authorities in Columbia are asking residents to forego shooting off fireworks for the sake of a family of bald eagles. Residents who live around Columbia Lake often set off illegal fireworks during the 4th of July holiday since the town does not hold an official fireworks display. Last summer, a pair of eagles became the first to call Columbia Lake home since the species returned to the state in 1992. This spring, an eaglet appeared in the nest. The bird is not yet old enough to fly and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is concerned that the noise of fireworks could be enough to scare the eaglet out of the nest before it is ready. Here is part of the letter sent to residents:
“Fireworks will be a threatening new experience for the chick and she will likely be startled by the light, sound, and unpredictable timing. At this stage the chick is quite large. It is incapable of flight. If she is startled she may jump or fall from the nest without the ability to glide safely to the ground.”
This has created a great American debate in town.
“We’ve got our national bird hanging out, creating babies and it’s our national holiday,” said Dean, a Columbia resident. “I don’t know.”
As far as town officials are concerned, if it’s a debate between the great American tradition and the great symbol of America, there is no debate at all.
“We want to do all we can to protect the eagles,” said Mark Walter, Columbia Town Manager. “In the long run, having eagles to protect in your town on your lake is far more important than fireworks.”
Walter says there will be significant patrolling over the long holiday weekend to make sure residents comply with the ban. Anyone caught setting of fireworks and causing damage to the nest or to the eagles could face state and federal fines of up to $6,000.