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Protecting an Important Habitat Near St. Elizabeths

Bald eagle in flight. Photo by Art Bromage under a Creative Commons license You may have read media accounts that our headquarters consolidation project at St. Elizabeths could endanger a pair of nesting bald eagles. But much of what has been written is inaccurate. In fact, we are taking great care to not disturb the eagles’ habitat. I want to take this opportunity to explain what the Department and the General Services Administration (GSA), which is developing the campus on our behalf, is doing to preserve the habitat.

The bald eagle is revered by the Department just as it is by all Americans. As the symbol of our country, it is on the Great Seal of the United States of America and is represented on the Department’s seal as well. From the outset, therefore, we have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to preserving the eagle habitat.

The eagles’ nest is not on the St. Elizabeths Campus property. However, GSA worked with the Fish and Wildlife Service in developing the project’s Master Plan to identify and preserve a buffer of land associated with the eagle habitat. The Environmental Impact Statement further determined that redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths West Campus would not have any kind of adverse impact on the eagles. Most importantly, there is no development planned in the buffer area.

A new access road for the 14,000 DHS employees who will work at St. Elizabeths will run along the western St. Elizabeths property line and through the National Park Service (NPS) Shepherd Parkway, directly adjacent to Route 295. The access road does not run through the protected zone for the eagles. Our plan has the access road located as close to the property line and route 295 as possible, which maximizes the distance from the eagle protection zone. GSA has offered to transfer the eagle protection acreage on the St. Elizabeths West Campus to the NPS as mitigation for the impact of the new access road running through their property.

We will monitor construction and development activities to ensure the habitat remains intact. And we will continue to responsibly develop St. Elizabeths to meet our mission, while respecting its rich heritage, its National Historic Landmark status, and all of our neighbors - including the residents of Ward 8 and our nesting eagles. We look forward to the day when the American and Department of Homeland Security flags will fly at St. Elizabeths along with the eagles.

Elaine Duke
Under Secretary, Management
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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