Managing Montana’s Golden Eagles in a Landscape of Development: a Collaborative Approach

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Wildlife conservation
golden eagle
working group
management recommendations
Volume 18, No. 1-4

Managing montana’s golden eagles in a landscape 
Of development: a collaborative approach 
Catherine S. Wightman, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT  59620 on 
behalf of the Montana Golden Eagle Working Group
The Montana Golden Eagle Working Group, an active coalition of agency representatives 
and eagle experts, was convened in April 2011 to address information needs and management 
recommendations for Golden Eagles in the state.  Current data indicates Golden Eagle 
populations may be declining across the western United States and stable or declining in 
Montana.  New energy and subdivision development may exacerbate these population 
trends through direct mortality, indirect and direct habitat loss and alteration, and increased 
disturbance.  However, we lack information that is necessary to evaluate population-level 
impacts of new development.  In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 
published a final rule authorizing limited issuance of permits to take Bald and Golden Eagles 
where the take is consistent with the goal of increasing or stable breeding populations, is 
associated with and not the purpose of an otherwise lawful activity, and cannot practicably 
be avoided despite the implementation of advanced conservation practices.  Consequently, 
limited take of eagles may be authorized relative to energy development or other activities 
while managing for no net loss to the population.  This means the USFWS must identify 
potential eagle mortality sources, the impact of potential mortality on the population, and 
impact avoidance, minimization, and compensatory mitigation strategies.  The Golden 
Eagle working group is drafting a monitoring strategy and management recommendations 
for Golden Eagles in a landscape of development.  Here we provide information on 
working group activities which are focused on allowing for continued development while 
simultaneously conserving one of Montana’s most charismatic birds.