The Bighorn Audubon Society and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department coordinated the Bureau of Land Management’s Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Count in the Powder River Basin this month after the government shutdown prevented BLM employees from doing so.
Rob Davidson from the Bighorn Audubon Society explained that Charlotte Darling, the BLM’s coordinator for the count, rushed to get the information packets out as the shutdown was approaching.
“When BLM found out that they were going to have the fiscal shutdown, she contacted Wyoming Game and Fish locally and gave them as much information that she could so that Game and Fish could coordinate and organize it,” Davidson said.
Darling was able to get all of the important documents out, except for the route maps. Once the shutdown started, Darling was furloughed and locked out of her office. Even if she had access to the maps, it would have been illegal for her to do anything work-related during this time.
The absence of maps proved less problematic than anticipated, as many of the volunteers were familiar with the routes for the eagle count from previous years. Each year, the BLM merely coordinates the efforts and compiles the data of individuals in the state.
This year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department took a little over half of the routes, while the Bighorn Audubon Society tried to fill the rest. Only one route was not claimed.
The data has been collected but will not be compiled until the shutdown ends.
“We directed our folks to send it in to BLM directly,” Davidson said. “Then the BLM will access it when they return to work.”
Last year, 528 eagles were spotted during the eagle count.