BOS Conservation Efforts

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Conservation Committee

At the December 8th, 2021 BOS meeting, Marilyn Feuerstein proposed that the BOS resurrect the BOS Conservation Committee. The discussion that followed showed that conservation was still a key concern for the BOS and Marilyn's proposal received immediate support. This action was, in part, due to a response to Gerry Rising's Prothonotary article, "Lone Voices in the Wilderness" in the July issue concerning development of the Buffalo Waterfront, a great concern for many of us.

Two other members joined the committee that night. Shortly after the meeting, Marilyn sent an email inviting the BOS membership to join our conservation efforts and the committee has now grown to 10 members.

The goals of the committee are:

  • to keep BOS members informed of conservation issues that are within the BOS Study Area or issues that could have an impact on the study area
  • to listen to the membership regarding potential conservation issues that may need action
  • to lend our support and voice as a larger group to conservation efforts

The Conservation Committee is currently meeting via Zoom on the first Wednesdays of the month.

Committee Actions and Awareness Items:

  •   4/26/2023: Industrial Park / Alabama Swamps Showdown   (click for more)

    PUBLIC MEETING: Thursday, May 11 at 6pm at the Town of Alabama Fire Dept., 2230 Judge Road, Alabama, NY.

    The DEC is inviting everyone to a public hearing on what to do about the endangered/threatened birds, particularly the endangered Short-Eared Owl and the threatened Northern Harrier. There is a proposal to build a massive industrial park in between the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, the Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Area, the John White Wildlife Management Area, and the Tonawanda Seneca Nation (which is sparsely populated by people, and essentially functions as a fourth wildlife refuge bordering STAMP). Please email Thomas Haley at: DEP.R8@dec.ny.gov to voice your concern. A template is below that you can use:
    Dear Thomas Haley,

    I am thankful that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is welcoming comments on the Article 11 Part 182 Take Permit proposal to use the habitat of the endangered Short-Eared Owl and the threatened Northern Harrier for industrial purposes at STAMP in Alabama, NY. I’m outraged with the proposal to build a massive industrial park in between the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, the Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Area, the John White Wildlife Management Area, and the Tonawanda Seneca Nation (which is sparsely populated by people, and essentially functions as a fourth wildlife refuge bordering STAMP).

    THE WORST POSSIBLE PLACE:
    These wildlife refuges are home to many endangered and threatened species that would naturally visit the “STAMP” lands in the middle of them. Yet, if an industrial park is permitted to function in the worst possible place, then these species will do more than simply abandon the land that the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) has hungered over. Naturally, the immense disturbance of a STAMP industrial park would inevitably drive many of them far from these four wildlife refuges. If profits motives go unchecked, then endangered and threatened species will clearly become even more imperiled.

    THE RESERVATION:
    The reservation of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation ends right at the western edge of STAMP, which clearly infringes on their Nation’s sovereignty. Worse yet, the most pristine region of wilderness in their Nation—the Big Woods—sits adjacent to STAMP. The Nation continues to oppose factory development on their traditional land that was unjustly stolen from them long ago.

    GOODBYE TO THE BIRDS: GCEDC would like to develop 665 acres of open habitat at STAMP, most of which is ideal for endangered Short-Eared Owls and threatened Northern Harriers to live in. Both species have been seen repeatedly at STAMP and on the neighboring state and federal wildlife refuges, yet this won’t be the case for long. This is because they were both spotted dozens of times in surveys last winter, while Short-Eared Owls weren’t at all spotted and Northern Harriers were only spotted once at STAMP this winter. Power Plug, the first tenant of the would-be industrial park, has clearly already chased them away; I can’t imagine how many species the next two factories would disrupt.

    A JOKE OF A “MITIGATION PLAN”:
    The GCEDC (via CC Environment & Planning) claims that the killing or harming of these species can be justified through a mitigation plan which provides benefits for affected species even as it harms them. They claim that “a 1:1 (new/improved: impacted) ratio of quality habitat must be created or enhanced.” By their own logic, as much land must be given to these species as is being taken from them: a 1:1 ratio. Even so, GCEDC aims to develop 665 acres of ideal habitat for these owls and harriers while only allotting two grassland fields to them, totaling only 58 acres. The ratio 665:58 acres is actually an 11:1 ratio whereby 11 times more land goes to greedy industry than to these endangered and threatened species.

    While these species could use the entirety of STAMP land previously, industrial park conversion would mean that they could only use the few areas not converted to factories and parking lots. Taking a pitiful 58 acres of farmland and making it grassland would not benefit them in any substantial way, especially for Short-Eared Owls since they generally require unbroken tracks of at least 247 acres (Wiggins et al. 2006). Further, both grasslands and cultivated crops serve as primary habitats per the DEC’s Short-eared Owl Special Status Assessment.

    WHAT WOULD SCARE THE BIRDS AWAY:
    1. Construction: GCEDC would like factory construction at STAMP to occur over the course of six stages over multiple years, scaring away birds over an extensive period with bulldozing, excavating, rerouting power lines, factory building, water storage tank construction, and creating parking lots.
    2. Buildings: In addition to Plug Power’s ongoing factory construction at STAMP, Edwards Vacuum intends to build two 1,750 foot-long factory buildings on top of two wetlands and Scannell intends to build three 1,219 foot-long factories.
    3. Parking lots: In addition to Plug Power’s lot, Edwards Vacuum would like to pave up to 500 parking spaces and Scannell aims to pave 991 parking spaces worth of habitat.
    4. Food source loss: As insects, other birds, voles, and other small mammals flee the area for all of these reasons, then these endangered and threatened birds will lose their sources of food.
    5. People: Over 9,000 people would be employed at STAMP according to GCEDC claims, most likely from far-away places. Yet even small groups of people commonly cause birds to flee their habitat.
    6. Vehicles: GCEDC expects 2,749 vehicle trips at the Peak PM hour (which equates to 1 vehicle every 1.3 seconds), and 2,034 vehicle trips at the AM Peak hour (which equates to 1 vehicle every 1.77 seconds).
    7. Noise: Construction, functioning factories, vehicles, and people would obviously create a lot of noise which would easily scare away birds and other animals.
    8. Light: Nighttime lighting on 10 to 20-foot poles would further deter birds from visiting their habitats that are being renamed as STAMP.
    9. Air emissions: Plug Power and Edwards Vacuum aim to house explosive liquids and gases, while the latter will emit various toxins into the air that can cause cancer and irritate the eyes and respiratory track of people and other animals. Scannell has not specified what they’d like to make and how it will pollute the environment.

    The GCEDC (via CC Environment & Planning) claims that “mitigation will be required to offset unavoidable habitat impacts”. Yet there is nothing “unavoidable” about allowing the habitat destruction of endangered and threatened species so that corporate leaders can massively expand their profits. I am outraged with the Article 11 Part 182 Take Permit proposal written on behalf of GCEDC; they need to get away from the land between these four reserves, and they should take Plug Power, Edwards Vacuum, and Scannell with them.

    Thank you for your time and attention to this critical matter.

    Sincerely,

  •   1/4/2023: Research on Turbines and Birds   (click for more)
    There is some recent research about painting parts of the windmills black to make them more visible to birds. Apparently one study found this painting of black lines halved the number of bird collisions.Read More »
  •   5/12/2022: Dim the Lights for Birds at Night   (click for more)
    Saturday May 14, 2022 is World Migratory Bird Day. This year's theme is “The Impact of Light Pollution on Migratory Birds”. https://www.cms.int/sites/default/files/publication/wmbd_2022_campaign_strategy_light_pollution.pdf Birds on the Niagara, North America’s only International Bird Festival, which is held each February, is proud to announce “Lights Out Niagara”. Birds on the Niagara will be hosting a Lights Out Niagara Press Event on this coming Saturday, May 14th at 10am at the back deck of the Tifft Nature Preserve. You are cordially invited. The purpose of this event is to help raise awareness of our emerging Turn Out the Lights Campaign for the International Niagara River Corridor. As you may know, the Niagara River Corridor is recognized as a “Globally Significant Important Bird Area”. Many communities throughout North America, and the Great Lakes, have Lights Out Programs. None in our region do. We need to change this.Read More »
  •   2/24/2022: A Rare Opportunity   (click for more)
    Read an editorial submitted to the Buffalo News by Margaret Wooster. Unfortunately, they didn't publish it. It's a good editorial about how WE, including Brian Higgins' and other early local leadership can work for an Outer Harbor park. This effort goes back to at least 1990.   Read More »
  •   2/11/2022: The Western New York Environmental Alliance   (click for more)

    The Western New York Environmental Alliance (WNYEA) is a coalition of independent organizations that collectively represents the environmental voice for the Western New York Region, creating a virtual town square for all things green in Western New York. With more than 30 member organizations, affiliates and supporters, WNYEA wants to ensure that the environment is the key factor in local and regional planning. The WNYEA particularly looks forward to working with alliance members on local and regional policies and initiatives related to our recently announced overarching campaign, “A Decade of Biodiversity.” For more information, see “Campaigns” on the WNYEA web page (www.wnyea.org).

    If you are interested in serving as a delegate/contact/organizational representative to the WNYEA on behalf of the BOS, please send a message to David Suggs (dsuggs@buffaloornithologicalsociety.org).

  •   1/25/2022: Freshwater Wetlands in NYS need your support!   (click for more)

    After Governor Hochul indicated support, now the legislation is in the NYS Senate awaiting action. Please consider writing or calling your state legislator to support Senate Bill S5116C (Assembly version A7850).

    This bill addresses shortcomings in the current law:

    “for a wetland to be subject to regulation under NY state law, it must be delineated on existing freshwater wetlands maps prepared by DEC after lengthy public comment. Most of these maps have not been updated in over 20 years, making them woefully incomplete, and the amendment process can be time consuming and overly burdensome in administrative costs.This legislation will remove the jurisdictional barriers that these maps have created, and allow DEC to immediately protect and regulate wetlands if they meet the basic scientific definition of these critical habitat areas featuring hydrophilic plants and hydric soils.

    Commissioner Seggos estimated that if this reform was enshrined in law it will be the equivalent of adding 1 million acres of wetland under the state's protection. That number just represents wetlands that are 12.4 acres and larger that were never officially mapped by the state. Existing state law will also allow DEC to identify and protect smaller wetlands of unusual importance that were once encumbered by the state's regressive mapping protocol and never officially recognized.

    The new reforms would preserve DEC’s authority over wetlands 12.4 acres and larger but expand the Departments authority over smaller wetlands of 'unusual importance' that: are class 1 wetlands, or class II wetlands that possess valuable characteristics like: effective for community flood water control, within an urban area, possessing rare plant or animal species, or important to maintaining clean drinking water.”

  •   1/25/2022: NY’s Heritage Wind Decision Aims to Reduce Project’s Impact on Birds   (click for more)

    NYS’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) approved Heritage Wind, the first wind energy facility considered under the state’s new renewable energy project review process. It is adjacent to Iroquois Wildlife Refuge and Tonawanda and Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Areas and presents a threat to migratory birds in this IBA (Important Bird Area).

    ORES agreed with conservation groups that the 6 highest risk turbines should be removed or relocated. If found “impracticable” APEX, the developer, is required to minimize impact on birds, including a study to quantify migrating bird use and a plan to halt turbine blades at times of elevated collision risk.

    Read More »
  •   1/5/2022: Good News From Albany!   (click for more)

    Good news soon followed the letter to Albany in Governor Hochul's State of the State Address. Audubon posted Governor Hochul's proposals that will benefit birds, other wildlife, and people. You can read about the key takeaways on NY Audubon's website.

    Read More »
  •   12/15/2021: NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act Reform   (click for more)

    The first act of the Conservation Committee was to endorse, along with 63 other organzations, the NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act Reform, which will help protect more wetlands and habitat for our birds! You can read the letter sent to Albany by following the link.

    Read More »