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Tulsa World Article About Eagle Roost Campaign

Up ] Eagle Brochure ] [ Tulsa World Article ]

Campaign to Protect Eagle Roost Nears Goal

from Tulsa World, April 4, 1979

By Sam Powell

Most of the great birds have left the area, returned far north to nesting sites where they will attempt to raise young during the summer season.

Here in Oklahoma, where they spend their winters, the work goes onto save them.

THE BALD EAGLE IS THE symbol of this nation, and still an endangered species.

In 1782, when the eagle was adopted as our nation's badge of fierce independence, a standard for the American free spirit, they roamed the skies at will.  They inhabited the land from sea to sea, north to south, in great numbers.

It's now estimated that less than 4,000 bald eagles are left in the lower 48 states.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma provides a winter Haven for approximately 600 birds, most-of them around our huge man-made lakes, with abundant forage in the shape of fish, and rugged, often inaccessible shoreline terrain for protection.

We here in northeast Oklahoma are one of the more fortunate areas.  For if you really want to, you have little trouble seeing one of these magnificent creatures in the wild each season.

AND THEY HAVE PLENTY OF friends here, as the Tulsa Audubon Society is closing in on a goal to save a vital winter roosting area along the shores. of Lake Keystone.

The local organization has already raised an impressive $140,000 which has been used to purchase some 102.5 acres of land along the lake. They need but some $10,000 more to reach their announced goal, and make good on an undertaking which few local organizations would ever have tackled.

Several Tulsa members have been instrumental in the campaign, including Jerry Crowley, Neil Garrison and Dick Sherry.  The club began working three years ago to protect this vital habitat, which is in the form of rugged Osage County country, thick blackjacks and steep canyons overlooking the lake.  It's an ideal and favorite spot for the birds after they migrate into the area early each fall.

AT THE PEAK TIME THIS past winter, there were as many as 40 to 50 birds in the area," Sherry recalls.  "Numbers were down just a bit from the winter before, when we often counted as many as 60.  This is one of the most important wintering roosts in the southwest now."

Audubon members first learned that plans were being made to sell the land, and turn it into yet another" second-home subdivision.

"We knew that if something was not done this area would go the same way that too many other sites in northeast Oklahoma have," Sherry said.

He explained that there used to a huge roosting area at Grand Lake.  In the early 1960's, as many as 180 eagles were using one single roost at the lake.  However, another housing development came in and the birds were forced to abandon that prime winter fishing ground.  Now, Audubon members say only one small roost containing a half-dozen or so birds remains on that entire giant lake.

"EAGLES MUST HAVE PROTECTION from human disturbance and encroachment, or they'll simply leave an area," Sherry says.  "They are not as adaptable to habitat alterations, as say the coyote and the house sparrow.  To insure the eagle's continued existence, we must protect sites such as the Keystone roost."

Although persons are not allowed to wander indiscriminately around the roosting area in the winter, the Tulsa Society holds regular "eagle watching tours" out there during the peak months. usually December through February.  Then, interested persons can easily see large numbers of birds feeding on fish below the dam at Keystone.

One of the ways the Society has been raising funds in the campaign is through sale of a beautiful, original piece of art.

Jack Miller is a part-time artist, employed full-time by the architectural engineering section of Public Service Co. His works are on display throughout the U.S., South America, even Russia, and in no less than the Library of Congress.  Sherry had seen his work, and approached him to do a painting.

MILLER'S WORK DEPICTS ONE of the huge birds soaring high over 'Lake Keystone, with the roosting area below.  If you look real close in this remarkable painting, you can even see some birds perched below in the bare, winter blackjacks.  A total of only 999 prints have been reproduced from the original oil, all signed and numbered by Miller, There are approximately 400 remaining.

The artist, who is not an Audubon member, donated this entire project to the campaign.  It has generated a good deal of funds, both through individual contributions, and from companies.

"Buying one of these prints has been popular with a lot of firms and companies in the area," Sherry noted.  "It does make a beautiful addition to a lobby or office wall, and denotes that the firm has made a real commitment to helping wildlife too.

A major share of the success of the campaign though must go to one man, and one very anonymous donation.

SHERRY POINTS OUT THAT Joseph H. Williams, chairman of the Williams Company, is serving as honorary chairman of the drive, and was "very instrumental in helping us secure the big donation."

At one crucial, down-to-the-wire point in the drive, when it looked as if the Society would not be able to come up with enough funds to purchase the land, that "anonymous foundation" came through with a grant of $124,000.

Sherry and others working on the project hope to have all funds in the bank by the end of June.  The eagle prints remain their major way to do that.

A donation of $100 or more to the drive will secure one of these limited edition prints.  They are mailed in large, heavy manila envelope, unframed.  To secure one, send contributions to P.O. Box 2476, Tulsa, Ok. 74101.  Checks should be made out "National Audubon Society, Tulsa Eagle Project." All contributions-of course are tax-deductible too.

PROJECTS AND COMMITMENTS such as this one have helped boost the local Audubon Society into the forefront of conservation work in this area.

From a local organization with about 200 members four years ago, they now boast membership rolls of approximately 500 persons.  They meet the third Friday of each month in the central library, and hold various nature hikes, outings, and club functions throughout the year. If you're interested in learning more about the Society and its activities, they welcome you to contact the membership chairman, Mrs. Louis Bentley, 743-5901.




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Last modified: October 10, 2017




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