You can’t talk about Big Bear’s bald eagles without including Robin Eliason in the conversation. A biologist with the San Bernardino National Forest, Eliason has organized eagle counts and eagle celebrations in Big Bear the better part of three decades.

On Dec. 31, Eliason will put on her US Forest Service uniform for the last time. She plans to retire after 30 years with the agency. She has spent her entire career in Big Bear.

“A lot of people (in the Forest Service) move around,” Eliason says. “As a biologist, there is a benefit to staying in one place. One of the best places to be, I think, is here in Southern California, in Big Bear.”

Eliason began her career with the San Bernardino National Forest in June 1989. At the time, she met a man by the name of George Miller, who was going around to Big Bear elementary schools teaching third-graders about eagles. Eliason continued the program through the Forest Service when Miller moved away. “It’s been a little strange going to visit third graders and all their teachers and even their parents were in the program when they were younger,” Eliason says with a laugh.

Eagle counts grew popular after Eliason’s arrival. “When I got here there were five to 10 Forest Service employees doing eagle counts,” Eliason says. “Through publicizing it and spreading the word we were able to build the program.”

When the Forest Service decided to discontinue eagle counts this winter, Eliason didn’t object. “When the Forest Service started the counts in the ’70s the bald eagle was an endangered species,” Eliason says. “It has recovered and has been removed from the list. The national counts stopped a long time ago, but we continued the effort mainly because it was a really popular education program.”

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