Conservation Column

Conservation Column: Hope for the Environment Amid Cautious Optimism

Under review by the new administration: One hundred (that’s 100!) anti-environmental regulations. Dare we hope that as we move forward, the health of the environment becomes a priority for decision makers? I hear the birds singing and remain cautiously optimistic.

Included in the review is the removal of protections for spotted owls and other old-growth- dependent species, the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act, and regulations that limited scientific and public input in decision-making, including weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act. So far, the leasing for drilling and extraction on public lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been halted and regulations around some types of pollution are being reinstated. More locally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) upheld the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s denial of a key permit that would have allowed the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline to move forward.

Conservation Column: Cooperation—Some Birds Do It, Can We?

 

Conserving biodiversity is a big challenge, but there is much we can do. Populations suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation, the wildlife trade, invasive species, and disease. These are exacerbated by climate change, as animals shift range, search for food, and crowd into smaller habitats. And all of these factors work together to stress populations, increase the chances of human encroachment into wildlife habitat, and provide the fuel for the next pandemic.

A concerted effort on the part of people cooperating to enact solutions is long overdue. But is cooperation possible? These are stressful times—the pandemic, the economy, politics, wildfires, and the state of the environment—just to name a few things. During times of stress, it’s easy for people to be less tolerant and less cooperative, for us to withdraw or just not want to bother. But we would do well in these difficult times to draw on the better aspects of human nature, our capacity to be generous, compassionate, and cooperative.

Conservation Column: Logging Is Not the Solution to Wildfires

The wildfires that tore through our communities and devastated natural areas were terrifying. We are so sorry for those who had to flee, for those who lost their homes, for those impacted by the fire and smoke. We are sad, too, for the individual animals that might have been harmed due to the wildfires, but it is comforting to note that nature is resilient and populations are generally not wiped out by fire.

Most of the species found in the western states have evolved with wildfire, and although there may be some exceptions, their populations will recover. Fire allows many seeds to germinate and the growing vegetation will provide a source of habitat and food to numerous animals. The Black-backed Woodpecker, which has been a candidate for the endangered species list, actually thrives in burnt conifer forests, where it gobbles the plentiful wood-boring beetles. Other insects come in and, along with the new growth, provide good sources of food for wildlife. The snags, large dead trees, provide shelter to birds, especially cavity nesters. The snags also help to anchor the soil, shade young conifers from intense sunlight, and provide habitat for many insect-eating bats, birds, and small mammals.

It is essential now to move forward in a way that avoids misconceptions about fire and creates the best possibility for recovery. Several misguided proposals to increase logging are already being discussed. 

What does the science say?

Conservation Column: Anti-poaching Campaign

Lane County Audubon Society has joined a diverse group of stakeholders to fight poaching and illegal harm to wildlife in Oregon. This campaign is a collaboration among conservationists, recreationists, hunters, and landowners. We and other wildlife organizations (including Portland Audubon) believe this to be an opportunity to help protect non-game wildlife.

Stakeholder meetings include representatives from the legislature, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Hunters Association, and Defenders of Wildlife among others. Recently passed legislation authorized the Oregon Department of Justice, State Police, and Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to work together to fight poaching. New legislation increased fines and restitutions for fish and wildlife crimes. Funding was made available to support the Stop Poaching campaign. 

Numerous illegal bird-killing reports over the years have included Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors, swans, crows, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Conservation Column: Ideas—Good and Bad

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.” – Linus Pauling

We’ve all heard the expression “There’s no such thing as a bad idea,” but I think many would disagree. Unfortunately, on the environmental front, many bad ideas have recently been proposed. Thankfully, many of these ideas have not been implemented. I list a few below. 

Conservation Column: Oregon Audubon Council 2019: Take-aways

In early November, Lane County Audubon hosted the 2019 Oregon Audubon Council (OAC) in Eugene. In attendance were representatives from nine of the twelve Oregon chapters as well as representatives from Washington State Audubon. The goal of the annual OAC meetings is to bring together state chapter members in order to discuss conservation concerns, to receive progress updates on ongoing issues, and to determine how we can best help to make a difference. 

Conservation Column: How Can We Do a Better Job of Protecting Birds?

An article published in the journal Science this month revealed that bird populations in North America have declined by 29 percent since 1970. That’s a loss of about 3 billion birds! These population declines were documented in common bird species as well as species of concern. Indeed, people in our community have been contacting Lane County Audubon for years with concerns about the disappearance of many favorite backyard birds.

Conservation Column: The Endangered Species Act Is Itself Endangered

The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most effective and important environmental laws. Since its passage in 1973, the Act has enabled the recovery of several at-risk species including the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, humpback whale, Virginia flying squirrel, and the Oregon chub, among others.

Conservation Column: Glass and Lighting Are Hazardous for Birds

It’s summer and I delight in the antics of fledgling birds. They land on our feeders, but despite the proximity and abundance of food, they beg from their parents, mouths open and wings fluttering. Soon they will be ready for autumn activities, which for many birds involve a migratory journey. Let’s do what we can to keep birds safe along their passage.

Conservation Column: Done Right, Farming Can Benefit Both Humans and Birds

Birds help farmers. They control pests, sow seeds, pollinate flowers, and fertilize soils. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true; common agricultural practices do not help birds. Often they have led to devastating bird population declines. The North American Breeding Bird Survey data shows that 74 percent of farmland-associated species decreased between 1966 and 2013.

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