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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most of us are aware of the alarming decline in populations of pollinators and other beneficial insects. This affects all of us, our food supply, and the birds that we love. In addition to habitat loss, pesticides use is a major culprit. Recent investigations have found pesticide residue everywhere, in the body tissues of people and animals, in the food we buy at our supermarkets, and even (sorry about this) in our beer and wine.
The percentage of people who think global warming is happening is now five times greater than that of people who don’t, according to a recent survey conducted by Yale University.
I prefer bird tweets to presidential tweets. It’s too easy to get distracted by the rhetoric and scandals, which may lead to the false impression that not much is getting done. However, while we are distracted, the current administration has sought to roll back many bedrock environmental protections. The vast scope of these changes and proposals makes it difficult for me to read or listen to the news. The following is a sampling of the more than 60 policy changes. Some are in the proposal stage, while others have been enacted.
- The federal government is reversing a policy that would have increased vehicle mileage standards for cars made over the next decade. The standards that were to go into effect would have limited vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. They would have also lessened other forms of pollution, reduced the need for fossil fuels, and saved people money at the pump.
You might have heard a little something about the birds and the bees. But maybe you haven’t heard that what’s good for bees is good for birds as well. Because that’s true, Lane County Audubon has joined the Eugene Pollinator Protection Committeein collaboration with the Xerces Society, Beyond Toxics, Walama Restoration Project, GloryBee, and the City of Eugene Parks and Open Spaces. By helping to protect native bees, we also secure resources, habitat, and health for our bird populations and other wildlife.
Unfortunately, pollinator populations have declined dramatically. A 2017 report revealed that over 700 species of native bees are in trouble.
Fom Portland Audubon: East Sand Island was once the largest Double-crested Cormorant colony in the world, home to more than 28,000 cormorants representing 40 percent of the entire population west of the Rocky Mountains. However, for the past three years, federal agencies have been waging a relentless and inhumane war on Double-crested Cormorants, shooting thousands of the birds out of the sky with shotguns and destroying their active nests. More than 5,000 cormorants have been shot, and more than 6,000 nests have been destroyed. Because of this, the world’s largest colony of Double-crested Cormorants has collapsed. The birds abandoned the colony at the peak of nesting season in 2016, and only a couple hundred birds returned to nest in 2017.
The collapse of the entire colony went far beyond what was allowed under the Corps permits and puts the entire western population of Double-crested Cormorants at risk. Yet, the US Army Corps has applied for permits to continue destroying cormorant nests on East Sand Island if the birds return in 2018, and has plans to modify their habitat to limit nesting in the future. This kind of activity could precipitate another colony collapse in 2018.