A Geographic Information System to Identify Potential Bald Eagle Breeding Habitat for Southeastern United States Rivers and Reservoirs

A geographic information system was developed for lower Melton Hill Reservoir and the adjoining Clinch River in eastern Tennessee to demonstrate the feasibility of using this tool to identify potential bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) breeding habitat in the southeastern United States. Input variables in the model included land use, forest type, condition and size, distance from water, distance from human development,and acreage of aquatic foraging area. The primary limitation on habitat suitability in the Clinch River-Melton Hill Reservoir area was human development (residential and industrial) along shoreline areas. Eagle management strategies developed from the model included locating future development away from high-quality habitats, allowing forest stands near water to mature, conducting timber stand improvement (thinning) to foster growth and development in pines and hardwoods, and using eagle introductions to foster development of a breeding population.

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