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Earth Notes: SP Crater Golden Eagle Preserve

Golden eagle
Babbitt Ranches

A large raptor emblematic of Southwestern grasslands will soon be protected as part of a new program in northern Arizona.

The SP Crater Golden Eagle Conservation Complex has been designated as a preserve of about 9,000 acres, including the crater itself.

SP’s cinder cone, formed by volcanic activity, stands out above the high desert north of Flagstaff. It’s known best for its geology, but biology lurks here too. Nearly sixty golden eagle nests are known in the preserve area.

Golden eagles are already protected by federal law, but this conservation effort adds another layer. Beginning in January 2022, certain restrictions will be put in place to avoid disturbing the adult birds and their eaglets during breeding and nesting. There will be no visitation on the crater itself from January through May, no use of lead ammunition, and no hunting or trapping of rabbits, squirrels, and prairie dogs, the eagles’ main food.

The project is a partnership between Babbitt Ranches, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the State Lands Department. Biologists will monitor the preserve to see how the eagles are doing, and Game and Fish will enforce the restrictions.

Billy Cordasco, president of Babbitt Ranches, says the project gives a landscape-scale, big picture view of habitat, prey, and the eagles themselves. He says “the ‘why’ of the effort is all about tomorrow”--having something for future generations.