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Bay Area Bird Blog » activism

Archive for the 'activism' Category

29th 2010
I hope the good news just doesn’t get as much coverage

Posted under activism & endangered species & wildlife (general)

Over the past few days I’ve been catching up on some New Yorkers that arrived while I was on vacation.  One of them has a long article about the illegal slaughter of literally millions of songbirds annually in Mediterranean countries, and the fruitless efforts to fight it.  Some places have an entrenched culture of killing birds, mostly for sport  – Malta, Cyprus, and Italy are specifically named, but there’s no claim that they’re the only ones — to the extent that the authorities won’t even try to enforce the laws. (In this regard, I’m reminded of dog laws in California parks).

And then last night I read an article about overfishing.  The article implies that it’s only recently been realized that fish populations everywhere are declining, the catch in almost all established fisheries is declining in spite of more sophisticated fishing gear, and that many former “staple” species, like North Atlantic cod, have been reduced to economic and ecological irrelevance.  Actually those facts were recognized by a lot of people years ago — for instance, the book “The Empty Ocean” came out in 2003 — but perhaps the article is right that they’re not widely known by the public.

And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors just approved an enormously expensive bridge right through a wetlands that Golden Gate Audubon has been restoring, to save 2 minutes of travel time for a small number of drivers.

And, of course, there’s the oil disaster in the Gulf, the failure of any climate bill in the Senate this year…it’s been a depressing couple of days of news.

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30th 2010
Antioch burrowing owls…cease and desist order on construction!

Posted under activism & government

Scott Artis, who has done a remarkable job monitoring and advocating for burrowing owls that are being evicted for a house construction project, reports today that California Department of Fish and Game is issuing a “cease and desist order” for the project. The developers are required to remove all of the “one-way doors” that had been installed on the owl burrows so that owls could leave but not return. This is fantastic news! I assume — Scott didn’t say in his email — that this action is prompted by the fact that fumigation to kill ground squirrels was, illegally, taking place even though burrowing owls are still on the site. If that’s the case then the developer will work quickly to come up with a new approach, but at least this buys some time for legal action. At this point it’s probably too late to stop the development, but at the least the developers should have to provide mitigation for removing burrowing owl habitat.

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22nd 2009
Antioch burrowing owls are being evicted

Posted under activism & endangered species & local birds

This is really sad.  The City of Berkeley, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society, have been working really hard to preserve their tiny remaining population of burrowing owls (three in Cesar Chavez Park, two in the adjacent Eastshore State Park).  At the same time, over in Antioch, a developer is “evicting” burrowing owls (by installing one-way, outward-only gates on their burrows) in preparation to fumigating to kill all of the ground squirrels there, to make way for a big housing development.  Read more about it at “the birder’s report”.  At the least, there should be some kind of required mitigation to try to compensate for the loss of habitat for these birds, which are a “species of special concern” of the State of California because of rapid population decline. Please write to John McCamman the director of the California Department of Fish and Game, with a cc to Regional Director Chuck Armor  At this point they are not going to stop the project but it may not be too late for them to require mitigations; also, it is very important that they know that people out here in the real world notice and care when they drop the ball like this.

[Note added 1/5/09: I just got a request from the Department of Fish and Game, to remove the name and contact information of the DFG’s local representative, Susan Gilmore.  As you can see here, I have removed the contact info but not the name; people who make important decisions should be accountable for them. But there’s no point overwhelming her with messages if she’s not going to read them or is not supposed to read or respond to them, and I assume that’s the case here.]


17th 2008
Rossmoor is going to kill dozens of woodpeckers

Posted under activism & bird behavior

From the SF Chronicle article

On the outer edges of Rossmoor, the retirement community nestled between Lafayette and Walnut Creek, a war has been waged for seven years pitting man against woodpecker. The woodpeckers are winning.

But now, the battle is about to go to a whole new level. Homeowners in Rossmoor received a yearlong permit in June from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill up to 50 of the pesky birds in an attempt to shoo away the others. Under the terms of the permit, the homeowners must continue to seek nonlethal methods of ridding the homes of the birds, said service spokesman Al Donner.

I hope lots of people object to this..including you, if you are reading this article.  The article mentions some things that the homeowners have tried — some of them are ridiculous, like a fake spider that moves up and down in response to noise — but it doesn’t say that they’ve tried some of the obvious things, like (1) leaving deadwood (dead branches and trees) standing if it is not a threat to fall on someone’s house, and (2) covering the part of the house under the eaves, which the woodpeckers favor, with a piece of tin.  

The Chief Executive’s Office at the Rossmoor retirement community is at 925-988-7712, why not give them a call and ask them to contact the Mount Diablo Audubon Society for help?

Brian Murphy of Audubon has some good ideas; he’s at 925-937-8835.  If you want to get involved in a bigger way than just calling the Rossmoor CEO, give Brian a call. 




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5th 2008
Where have all the volunteers gone?

Posted under activism & volunteer

Remember last year’s oil spill in the San Francisco Bay?  Remember how many thousands of volunteers came out to clean up the beaches and rescue oiled birds?  Remember how many people were frustrated that they weren’t allowed to help without special training?  Hearing those stories, you would have thought there were thousands and thousands of people in the Bay Area who are motivated to devote time and effort into an unpleasant task, in order to try to reduce environmental damage in the Bay Area.  You would have thought that, and you would have been wrong.  Or at least, you would have been somewhat misled.  Volunteer-oriented groups, like Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, didn’t see their volunteer efforts swell with hundreds or thousands of new people.  Almost all of these organizations rely on the same, rather small, groups of dedicated volunteers that they had before.  Sure, some new people show up, but some regular volunteers drop out, and the numbers stay about the same.

 I don’t really understand what the problem is.   The would-be oil spill volunteers really did want to clean up the oil spill and help rescue oiled birds, I’m not questioning their desire to help.  But for some reason oil-spill cleanup is the ONLY unpleasant jobs most of them are willing to do to help the environment.  Is it because the oil spill got lots of press coverage?  Is it because the oil spill was so visible?  

Is there any way to get potential volunteers fired up to devote the same kind of energy to projects that are more mundane but even more important than oil spill cleanup?   (For instance, whether the City of Richmond sets aside 20% or 80% of their shoreline as protected open space has environmental implications way, way, way bigger than an oil spill, but doesn’t get 1% of the press coverage or volunteer interest.  It’s hard to get a dozen people to show up at a City Council meeting, never mind a hundred people or a thousand people). 


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24th 2008
GGNRA “big year” — how’s it going?

Posted under activism & endangered species

Way back in January, in one of the first posts on this blog, I posted about the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) “Big Year.”  The idea is to see as many of the GGNRA’s federally listed (”threatened” or “endangered”) species as possible, and to perform some action to protect or help the ones that you see.  As I mentioned in January,

GGNRA has more federally listed endangered species than any other mainland unit of the National Park Service.  Brent Plater [Big Year organizer] was flabbergasted (so am I).   More than Yellowstone, with its wolves and grizzlies?  Yep.  More than the big parks of the Pacific Northwest, with their spotted owls?  Yep.  The only U.S.  parks with more federally listed threatened or endangered species are on islands: Hawaii, and the Channel Islands of Southern California.  We’ve got 33 listed species here (”listed” means listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the federal endangered species act).  This is not something to be proud of.  

Well, I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t done very much vis-a-vis the Big Year.  I did see the Western Snowy Plover, and I’ve done my share of lobbying to help protect endangered species in general…but as far as the Big Year itself, eh, I haven’t done so much.  If you’re in the same boat, there’s an opportunity for you this weekend to jump-start things on both the see-a-species front and the take-action front:

Sat, July 26, 3 p.m.: Celebrate the return of Western Snowy Plovers to the GGNRA by participating in a beach cleanup and outreach day at Ocean Beach! While there, complete your Big Year Action Item by asking dog owners to keep ‘em on a leash in Plover habitat! Location: Ocean Beach, Stairwell 17.

That’s this Saturday. Why not come lend a hand?

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13th 2008
Tell EBMUD we want to conserve water

Posted under activism

The East Bay Muncipal Utilities District (EBMUD) is working on their long-term plan: how are they going to provide “enough” water for the East Bay over the next fifteen years.  What they don’t want to do is any of that wild, crazy stuff like they’re doing in LA: installing “graywater” recycling systems, capturing roof runoff, discouraging wasteful practices like water-intensive lawns and such.  No, no, we wouldn’t want to do that!  We want to drain our rivers and streams dry, and build bigger dams to flood more wildlife habitat.  Anything to avoid “conservation.”  And if we DO have to have brief periods of conservation, we want to do what we’re doing now: let people use more water during a drought if they have been using more water before the drought, thus discouraging people from reducing their normal water usage.  Sure, that’s what we want.  

If you agree, come out to a meeting at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, June 17, at the EBMUD offices in Oakland: 375 11th street.  Speak up in favor of eliminating the last of our salmon and trout populations, and drowning habitat!  Oppose measures such as capturing roof runoff, and recycling shower water!  Drain the rivers! Drown the habitat!  Let’s all get together on this, people! 

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17th 2008
Ignore the bad news, go to your happy place now…

Posted under activism & wildlife (general)

Sometimes the nature news is really depressing, and this is one of those times. (Maybe the rest of my life will be one of those times). Ecological footprint This plot from the World Wildlife Federation attempts to classify the average “ecological footprint” for people living in various countries.  The idea here is that it takes a certain fraction of the earth’s area to provide the food that we eat, the water that we drink, provide the forests that purify the air that we breathe, etc., and these people have attempted to quantify it.  They express this in “hectares”; a hectare is 100 ares (I knew that would help) — a hectare is 10,000 square meters, or about 2.5 acres.  If you believe the figure, then even without ANY fossil fuel buring, and ANY depletion of fish and other marine resources, we (in the U.S.) would be using more than the earth can sustain; if you include these things, we’d be off the chart if they didn’t extend the chart so far.

OK, but DO you believe the figure.  I believe it, roughly speaking anyway.  The Zoological Society of London claims (as discussed in a BBC report) to have compiled data that show that “Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%” since 1970.  As far as ecological timescales go that is incredibly fast, more than 25% losses in less than 40 years.  But unfortunately, that’s a gradual change for people who see year-to-year differences: who would notice a decline of 0.5% from one year to the next?  After a while, wildlife concentrations that were once common become rare, but it happens gradually enough that people don’t notice.  Wildlife levels that were one considered “severely depleted” are accepted as the new norm, and another cycle of decline begins.  It’s depressing. 


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