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Tiger of the Lake

By. Bryanna R. Poulin

Little Rock District Public Affairs Specialist

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ROGERS, Ark— When you hear tiger what do you think of? A ferocious creature in Africa or maybe a majestic animal at the zoo? For some of the rangers at Beaver Lake, the word tiger describes one of their fellow teammates.

“She’s a tiger who gets things done,” Alan Bland, park ranger with Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

With golden blond long hair dangling past her shoulders and crystal blue eyes like the lake she works on, Donna Bryant, park ranger, Little Rock District, USACE starts her work day before the sun rises.

“I like coming to work a few minutes early so I can get ready for the day,” Bryant explains as she unlocks a heavy metal door and heads straight to the employee break room.

Bryant, like millions of other early morning risers, begins her day with a hot cup of coffee.

“This coffee pot isn’t as nice as the last one and I like to have coffee ready before everyone else gets here,” she explains while pouring water into the pot and adding coffee in the filter. “We’re remodeling our office so we are out here temporarily.”

As the aroma of coffee circulates in the air a few more Corps employees slowly make their way into their makeshift office. Bryant stands patiently waiting for the pot to be done but her enthusiasm rings through her voice.

“Good morning,” she cheerfully said. “This is some great weather today.”

While most days are cold in January today is a little warmer than usual.

“It’s been a warm week,” she said. “Typically we’re out on the water freezing.”

This week Bryant and her coworker are conducting the annual Bald Eagle count but typically she’s the go-between for Beaver Lake residents and the Corps.

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“She gets to deal with a lot of happy customers,” Bland sarcastically joked. “If she’s at a house more than once it’s going to cost someone money.”

Essentially Bryant is responsible for encroachment or violations along government property.

“I go out and resolve things like timber trespasses, structures on public land or assess the value of the trees if residents just decide to cut one down,” explains Bryant. “They have to reimburse the government for what was lost if they don’t have a permit.”

Since most people don’t like owing the government money they usually are pretty angry but Bryant wins them over.

“I’m really successful in talking to people and getting them to fix the issues without getting mad or taking it out on me,” Bryant said. “They may be angry at the Corps but they still like me.”

Bland chimed in “She is really good at dealing with the public.”

Both the rangers explained how a lot of people think they own the shoreline adjacent to their property and rangers spend so much time on the lake they notice any changes. For example the day of the eagle count Bryant noticed some rocks that were moved to make some stairs at one of the houses on the lake.

“Just because the rocks are there [shoreline] doesn’t mean they can be moved to build stairs,” Bland said.

Bryant echoed Bland asking rhetorically “Would you go to your neighbor’s house and start building a dock or cutting down their trees? It’s no different when you do it on public property.”

When dealing with upset owners Bryant doesn’t have a secret weapon or special power but feels showing empathy is her best bet.

“I treat everyone as if they are innocent until proven guilty,” she said taking a sip of her coffee and pushing fallen strands of hair behind her ears. “I look at the issue, evaluate and tell them it needs to go.”

Occasionally adjacent land owners construct decks or stairs on public lands and these items must be removed.

“Since I’ve been here I have had more than 30 decks removed,” she explained.

That’s a lot of removals for Bryant whose journey with the Corps occurred late in life.

Appearing nervous while talking about herself Bryant humbly explains she started college later in life.

“While I was working for a shoe company I went overseas,” she said. “They sent me back to college and I got my degree.”

This paved the path for the nontraditional college student to major in Plant Science and eventually led her to USACE.

“I had worked on a farm with cattle so I got interested in plants because of raising food for the cattle,” she described. “I thought I’d get a job as a crop specialist or something like that since it was the best thing to do in my area. The company gave me an internship cleaning park trails and I needed to work to pay for some of my college.”

As Bryant began reminiscing about her college day’s Bland spoke up for his modest coworker and said “She’s not telling you she also graduated magna cum laude.”

Blushing underneath the freckles scattered across her cheeks Bryant said “Yeah I maintained a 4.0 GPA.”

Fortunately the internship opened another door.

“I had to get a full time job so I applied where I had interned and got hired in Idaho,” she explained.

Working during the day and going home to her grandkids at night, life in the Potato State was everything she desired.

“I started my new job and was over parks as a facility coordinator taking care of the campgrounds and things like that,” Bryant said smiling. “My grandkids also lived with me.”

For years her life consisted of her grandchildren and career until suddenly her grandkids had to move without her.

“They lived with me for six years of their life so when they moved I had to be close to them,” she explained.

Leaving Idaho behind Bryant searched for jobs allowing her to live closer to her grandbabies.

“When they [grandkids] went back to St. Louis I applied for jobs to be near them,” she said. “Another district hired me in 2002 and I could be close to my grandkids again.”

This was just the foundation for Bryant’s career with USACE because a few years later she applied for a position with Little Rock District.

“I have been with Beaver Lake since 2010,” she said. “They hired me and I’ve never left. I love this job. I get to do things, be outside and go places.”

Different places that opened her eyes on how fortunate her life is.

“I spent six months in Afghanistan,” she said. “It was interesting and kind of scary. I oversaw contracts and realized how much better we have it here. Life is too short not to experience everything. They have nothing over there. It helped me with my job and to realize how much more I love what I do.”

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With several districts and more than a decade with USACE under her belt, Bryant continues to shine and move forward in her career with the Corps.

“She has gotten a number of awards and has been recognized many times,” Bland said.

More recently she got an opportunity to excel even further with another district.

“I just received the official offer to start with Portland District, USACE,” she concluded with excitement. “I will be leaving February 19.”

 

 

Armed with experience and binoculars USACE rangers count Bald Eagles

Story by Bryanna R. Poulin
Little Rock District Public Affairs

ROGERS, Arkansas—Living on mountain tops, amidst the solitary splendor of nature Bald Eagles have infinite freedom. Its distinctive brown body, white head and up to 7-foot wing span allows them to dive with speeds up to 99 mph into valleys below or upward into the boundless spaces beyond.

While eagles are known for being on the faces of quarters and half dollars and are the American symbol for freedom most people still think they are endangered.

“It’s important to remember that Bald Eagles are protected and are no longer on the endangered species list,” Alan Bland, park ranger at Beaver Lake Project Office, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. “People don’t always know they are protected and not endangered.”

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.

It wasn’t so long ago the eagles were considered endangered.

Shortly after World War II to control mosquitoes and insects, Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane was wreaking havoc for the Bald Eagle. When the pesticide enters the food chain it causes reproductive failure so future eaglets didn’t’ have a chance for survival.

“DDT made the eggshells very thin so they would bust before the eaglet could hatch,” Bland explained. “DDT was in the water where the plants and fish absorbed it and eagles were eating the poisonous fish.

The decline of future generations was a primary reason DDT was banned in 1972 allowing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to place the Bald Eagle as endangered and give the nations bird a chance to thrive.

“DDT was around for years and many people used it because it was a very effective chemical,” Bland said. “When they finally banned it they started hacking stations to repopulate the bird.”

The hacking stations would take eaglets from their wild nests and transfer them to a different location where they thrived in artificial nests. The eaglets lived in cages and human caretakers fed them until their feathers became fully developed and they could live on on their own.

“They [caretakers] would go up to the nest with a puppet that looked like an eagle to feed them so the birds never saw a human,” Bland explained.

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting. Donna Bryant one of the rangers who conducted the count said “For a windy day the count was about average compared to past years where we’ve seen more. Overall not bad.”
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting. Donna Bryant one of the rangers who conducted the count said “For a windy day the count was about average compared to past years where we’ve seen more. Overall not bad.”

Once developed the tiny eagles would be tested for their flying ability and usually monitored with small transmitters on their necks.

“They would put a number on the wing and do a full health checkup, this was way back in the day…the 1980s,” said Bland.

After the eaglets were released and could take advantage of the open land and habitats they began reproducing steadily allowing them to be removed from the endangered list and only be a protected species.

The protection is why Beaver Lake rangers participates in the National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.

“We have a certain time frame we have to do our count,” Donna Bryant, park ranger at Beaver Lake, Little Rock District USACE said. “Usually it’s sometime in the middle of January.”

Setting a date may seem easy but there are variables rangers have to consider.

“A date is set but never confirmed until about a week out,” she said. “The count is dependent on how the weather is.”

Not only does weather play a role for the rangers it also influences the eagles.

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.

“With the high winds yesterday they could be as far as Missouri or Kansas,” Bland said. “Wind makes them exert less energy so it doesn’t take them long to get anywhere.”

Luckily for Bland and his teammates covering miles of shoreline has happened without any glitches.

“Besides extreme cold and freezing temperatures we haven’t had any excruciating circumstances or major problems so far,” Bland said.

Another factor impacting counts is lakes like Beaver are huge.

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting. Donna Bryant one of the rangers who conducted the count said “For a windy day the count was about average compared to past years where we’ve seen more. Overall not bad.”
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting. Donna Bryant one of the rangers who conducted the count said “For a windy day the count was about average compared to past years where we’ve seen more. Overall not bad.”

We try to cover as much area as we can, Bland explained. This year we covered 400 miles of shoreline and about 30,000 acres of waters.

While this year’s number was slightly less than earlier years Bland has seen an increase in his 30 plus years of experience. Basically eagles are making a comeback.

There has been a growth of eagles over the years and we now see them everywhere, Bland believes. They are so common now that I’ve seen as many as 269 in one day.

Most rangers know the lake like the back of their hand but that still doesn’t make the count easy.There are no fancy devices to count the birds, in fact rangers only have their experience and a pair of binoculars for the count.

“We have to physically count each Bald Eagle we see,” Bryant said. “With dense woods and limited visibility it would be impossible to get an exact number. We try to get the best estimate but sometimes we just don’t see them because they are too far into the wood line.”

Bland added how important the eagle numbers are to the surrounding community.

“This is beneficial to the public because people are asking if rangers are seeing more or less eagles,” explained Bland. “They are fascinated by eagles and our yearly counts.”

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.

Overall both rangers felt this year’s count was a success.

This year the weather was warmer and conditions better than previous years, Bland concluded. We saw a few nests and our count was more than 100.

Bryant agreed by saying “For a windy day the count was about average compared to past years where we’ve seen more. Overall not bad.”

This year Beaver Lakes final count was 105 total, 80 matures and 25 immatures.

Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.
Park Rangers from Beaver Lake, Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted the annual National Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey that takes places each January. The survey is an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center and USACE. The purpose is to establish a partnership between the organizations who maintains the long-term, national coordination of the count, data, analysis and reporting.