By James Rowen
*Buried in news dominated by impeachment and holiday shopping, Trump just unwound basic legal protections for birds, essentially removing years of common-sense protections for birds and thus their role in stabilizing the environment already under enormous pressures:
A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ All but Ends Punishment for Bird Deaths
As the state of Virginia prepared for a major bridge and tunnel expansion in the tidewaters of the Chesapeake Bay last year, engineers understood that the nesting grounds of 25,000 gulls, black skimmers, royal terns and other seabirds were about to be plowed under.
To compensate, they considered developing an artificial island as a haven. Then in June 2018, the Trump administration stepped in. While the federal government “appreciates” the state’s efforts, new rules in Washington had eliminated criminal penalties for “incidental” migratory bird deaths that came in the course of normal business, administration officials advised. Such conservation measures were now “purely voluntary.”
The state ended its island planning.
Compare the actions of the Trump administration to recent local efforts in Milwaukee, and elsewhere, that aim to preserve wildlife for future generations to appreciate.
Milwaukee County Parks receive Important Bird Area status
With its Important Bird Area designation, the park system joins 92 sites in Wisconsin, 2,832 sites in the U.S., and 12,000 other sites worldwide as Important Bird Areas. The IBA program was launched by Birdlife International in 1985 to identify, protect, and monitor sites essential to the conservation of bird populations globally, Thompson said.
The designation is voluntary and conveys no legal status or regulatory requirements but highlights the importance of the Milwaukee County Parks System for bird conservation and will catalyze using IBAs as a springboard to advance active site conservation at Wisconsin’s other Important Bird Areas, he said.
*Then there is the proposed Kohler golf course along Lake Michigan south of Sheboygan – – which is in another documented Important Bird Area, or IBA.
The area south of Sheboygan, including the state park lands, has been recognized by others as an important resource for migratory birds….This area was recognized as an IBA due to the extensive use by birds as on-shore migratory stopover habitat and off-shore wintering waterfowl habitat. This area has also been identified by the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative as a Tier 1 area, the highest level of significance for migratory bird stopover habitat. (Grveles et al. 2011)
The project history and implications have been frequent topics on this blog.
Per the WI DNR:
Tree clearing would occur on the Property for each hole, the access road, the clubhouse/parking lot complex, the practice range, the maintenance facility, the restrooms, and the irrigation pond. Tree clearing may also occur in forested areas between tee and fairways to provide lines of sight. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated. Wildlife species inhabiting these areas would be permanently impacted by the loss of habitat.
While opposed by a grassroots organization and stalled by a judge’s order, the project would vastly reduce migratory bird and other wildlife cover, according to the DNR’s environmental impact statement (EIS), excerpted here:
Summary of Adverse Impacts That Cannot Be Avoided
The site’s nearly 100 percent forested canopy would be reduced by nearly half. Habitat value will diminish along forest edges near turf grass and human use areas.
Approximately 3.7 acres of wetland would be lost due to filling including impacts to approximately 1.36 acres of Great Lakes ridge and swale wetlands, a wetland type that is considered “imperiled” in Wisconsin. Additional wetland impacts resulting from alterations to wetland hydrology and the influence of increased nutrients could change the wetland type and allow encroachment of invasive species.
Reduction of the forest to 50 percent cover would result in a substantial reduction of available migratory bird stopover habitat on the Kohler Property. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated…
It is unknown to what extent storm water infiltration and nutrient and pesticide applications to fairways, tees and greens (for either establishment or maintenance) would impact groundwater quality in this permeable soil and shallow water table environment.