Onondaga Audubon has a long history of environmental activism. We have an active Conservation Committee that works year round on environmental conservation issues, locally and nationally. If you care about birds and preservation of bird habitat you will find kindred souls in our chapter.
What Can Average Citizens Do?
By Maryanne Adams, Conservation Chair, January, 2014
As conservation chair for Onondaga Audubon, I do a lot of reading on the subject. Issues develop on a daily basis, making it difficult to decide where to focus: the planet? The country? New York state? The Lake Ontario shoreline? Onondaga Lake? More specific conservation issues?
The immensity of the issue of climate change merits the attention of everyone on earth. But the mainstream media hardly take notice. Rebecca Solnit writes about this lack of press in “Bigger Than That: (The Difficulty of) Looking at Climate Change.” She describes how it might be if newspapers organized stories in proportion to their impact. “Unfortunately,” she writes, “when it comes to climate change, there is not paper enough on this planet to properly scale up a story to the right size. If you gave it the complete front page to suggest its import, you would then have to print the rest of the news at some sort of nanoscale and include an electron microscope for reading ease.” (www.tomdispatch.com, October 6, 2013)
Another article almost made me feel like giving up, because it explained the economic context of the U.S. so well. Richard Smith aptly summed it up: “…As we live under capitalism, economic growth has to take priority over ecological concerns.
“We all know what we have to do,” Smith continues. “Suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.” (“‘Sleepwalking to Extinction” http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/15-3.)
What can average citizens do? Giant corporations might have plenty of money to advertise the benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline and hydraulic fracturing, but we can still take political action. David and Janet Muir and I attended an October 30 rally in Albany regarding the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) inadequate regulations for liquid natural gas facilities. We listened to inspiring speeches from Sandra Steingraber and Debra Winger as well as testimony from concerned citizens. (A 43-minute video of all the speakers at this event is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fciYunBivu8.) People also shared their concerns by submitting comments to the DEC, as they did regarding hydraulic fracturing regulations earlier.
Another way to help is to make sure your vote speaks for you, especially in local elections. Onondaga Audubon vice-president Gerry Smith reports that, in spite of efforts from pro-wind factions in Cape Vincent, four out of five members of the town board are now anti-wind individuals. The majority of the citizens of Cape Vincent do not want industrial wind in the town, and their votes proved it.
Another action making the corporate world sit up and take notice is divestment—selling an asset for either financial or social goals. Many academic institutions are divesting of securities related to fossil-fuels. At this writing, signatures are being gathered asking the New York State comptroller and legislature to divest within five years from direct or commingled ownership of funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.
Something else people can do is to send comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to show support for an action or concern over a proposal. Last fall, many people sent comments and signed petitions in favor of granting the Red Knot protection under the Endangered Species Act. Federal protection of this species may help curb habitat degradation in parts of the bird’s 9,000–mile migration route and also protect the Red Knot’s food supply. In October, the FWS also proposed that western populations of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo be listed as threatened. About 90 percent of the birds’ riparian habitat has already been lost or degraded because of water management and agricultural practices. Without strict regulation, it is unlikely that either Red Knots or western Yellow-billed Cuckoos can survive.
In conclusion, although we might sometimes feel overwhelmed by the state of the world, we must always believe that we can make a difference. Good things DO happen because of the actions individuals take. And please, visit our website (Onondaga Audubon.com) and our Facebook page to read about the latest issues and actions we can take.
OAS Faces Host of
Issues in Coming Year
By Maryanne Adams, Conservation Chair, July, 2013
West Monroe, N.Y., Indiana Bats. In spite of adequate environmental protections now in place, the DEC has issued a permit allowing inappropriate activity in an environmentally sensitive area. It seems that proper procedures were not followed and there was a lack of communication between the New York DEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As a result, a private landowner removed trees and filled in a small wetland at the edge of Toad Harbor wetland. Did the Army Corps of Engineers communicate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife about allowing the removal of trees that would negatively impact Indiana Bats? Gerry Smith will obtain specific information regarding the actions taken by the DEC. He will then send a letter explaining our concerns to the Town of West Monroe. It is important that the agencies charged with protecting and overseeing important natural areas be made aware that they are being monitored by concerned citizens and organizations, and that due process needs to be followed.
Lake Ontario. In the wake of public commentary about Plan Bv7, the International Joint Commission (IJC) has issued a revised water management proposal for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Basically, the new plan, simply called Plan 2014, is very much like Bv7, with triggers for deviation from the plan when water levels reach designated highs or lows. This new plan has the intent of reducing some of the negative effects of extreme water levels on shoreline property and recreational boating while still providing some environmental benefits. It does not do as much to improve lakeshore ecosystems as the previous plan, but it is still better than what is currently in place. OAS will be submitting a letter to the IJC supporting Plan 2014, and Gerry Smith was physically present at the technical hearing held July 17 in Oswego. You can learn more about the plan and the dates and locations of hearings on the commission’s website: http://www.ijc.org/en_/losl
West Barrier Bar Park, Fair Haven. Many of you have visited this 32-acre parcel on the west side of Little Sodus Bay, Lake Ontario Although many fishermen, birders, and picnickers use this space on a daily basis, it is not particularly well-maintained and it is being overrun by Pale Swallow-wort. (I base my identification on the maroon color of the flower. The blooms on Black Swallow-wort would be very dark purple, almost black.) I was curious about whether or not there were any plans to control it. Because this is a Cayuga County Park, I called Gary Duckett, director of Cayuga County parks and trails. He told me that there are currently no management plans in place because the park is “in limbo” right now. The county has approved a plan to turn it over to the state of New York, who will then deed it to the Village of Fair Haven. In a conversation with Fair Haven mayor Bill McVea, I learned that this should happen in the fall, and the park will then get some much-needed attention. Mayor McVea strongly favors removing both the swallow-wort and as well as honeysuckle and replacing them with native plants and shrubs. The mayor will let OAS know when the transfer occurs, and he welcomes our involvement in improving West Barrier Bar Park.
New York Crossroads Rally, Albany. This event sent two messages to N.Y. Governor Cuomo: “No” to hydrofracking and “Yes” to renewable energy. On June 17, David and Janet Muir and I joined more than 2,500 others outside the state capital building, where we listened to some very inspiring speakers and then marched around the capital block. Those attending include Natalie Merchant, Oren Lyons, Lois Gibbs, Debra Winger, Maurice Hinchey, Sandra Steingraber, Arun Gandhi, and others. Space here does not allow me to do the speakers justice here, but to learn more, please visit http://www.shaleshockmedia.org, where you can watch a video of the entire rally and hear what speakers had to say.
There are many more conservation issues that need to be addressed. Anyone who wants to help may e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Conservation Action and the Latest about Fracking
by Maryanne Adams, Conservation Chair
October 3, 2012
Our chapter has been quite busy this summer. On August 1st, a letter was sent to the DEC on behalf of Onondaga Audubon. In it, our opposition to the granting of a permit, which allowed certain structures to be built within the boundaries of a highly rated wetland on Oneida Lake, was clearly stated. Because some of the requests had already been illegally initiated prior to entering the permitting process, the actions of the party requesting the permit could be viewed as a blatant attempt to avoid the appropiate process. This matter has not yet been resolved.
On August 11th, sixty volunteers of all ages participated in a program designed to provide them with the “opportunity to participate in habitat restoration, citizen science monitoring, and stewardship activities that will enhance the sustainability of Onondaga Lake” (workbook from Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps – Honeywell, Montezuma Audubon Center, Onondaga Audubon Society, Parsons). Frank Moses, Jonathan Kresge, and I took participants on bird walks in the vicinity of Nine Mile Creek. We saw three species of shorebirds (Least, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers) on the mud in the Geddes Brook floodplain. It was a lot of fun and very rewarding to see how interested people became as we identified the 31 bird species that were present that day.
The Onondaga Audubon Society has also become part of The Otisco Lake Watershed Advisory Committee. We met in Syracuse on August 15th to discuss the results of a survey that had been sent to stakeholders in this watershed and to develop a plan of action. Kim Farrell will continue to work with this group as they develop a management plan to address the concerns highlighted by the survey (nutrients in the lake and loss of open space, for example) and to promote the involvement of town boards.
On Thursday, August 23rd, three OAS members participated in an event at the New York State Fair designed to call Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attention to concerns about opening New York State to hydraulic fracturing. Many groups who wonder about the negative impact hydraulic fracturing might have in New York, especially on agriculture and related industry (Chobani Yogurt), were represented. David and Janet Muir were on hand bright and early to hold a banner and to share their concerns. In the afternoon, I held up one end of a sign, handed out information, and answered questions. During the four hours I was there, I was surprised to find that many fairgoers had heard the term “hydrofracking,” but had no idea what it meant.
On September 27th and 29th, Gerry Smith and I participated in two different Lake Ontario Watershed Basin Forum Workshops. Presentations by the DEC explained The Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP). U.S. and Canadian federal governments, New York, Ontario, and various stakeholder organizations developed the Lake Ontario LAMP. Participants ranked five LAMP priorities with regard to personal and community importance. Input from the workshops will be used to set LAMP priorities and generate a list of projects for the Lake Ontario watershed. The actions that were ranked include:
• Conserve Critical Lands and Waters
• Reduce the Impact of Aquatic Invasive Species
• Restoring Connections and Natural Hydrology
• Restore Native Fish Communities and Native Fish Species
• Restore the Quality of Nearshore Waters
For more information about this ecosystem-based management vision, visit http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/ontario.html.
As most of you already know, there are new developments with regard to the course of action that the governor is taking with regard to fracking. All summer long, New Yorkers have been wondering if the Southern Tier would be opened to unconventional gas exploration. A little over a week ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he will decide whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York only after a review of the health impacts of shale gas drilling is completed. Many of the 80,000 comments submitted to the DEC regarding their environmental impact statement expressed concerns about the effects of fracking on human health. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has put Health Commissioner Nirav Shah in charge of this task. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/new-york-fracking-health_n_1903893.html).
In addition, state officials say that the DEC will repeat some steps in the regulatory approval process, including a public hearing and another call for comments. This would push the time frame for making a decision on fracking into next year. The title of a related New York Times article says it all: “Shift by Cuomo on Gas Drilling Prompt Both Anger and Praise.” In spite of intense pressure from the gas industry and from landowners anxious for drilling to start, Governor Cuomo has not given in. He has not ignored the 20,000 anti-frack activists who have continued to speak out. He has consulted his advisory panel on fracking and followed research that examines how often concrete well casings fail and what happens when they do. He has also discussed (with the panel) a study from the Colorado School of Public Health (March 2012) that found a correlation between living near a fracking site and exposure to air pollutants like benzene and toluene. Cuomo says “Let’s get some facts and data and some science, and we’ll make the decision on the science, which is what should be done here” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/nyregion/with-new-delays-a-growing-sense-that-gov-andrew-cuomo-will-not-approve-gas-drilling.html?pagewanted=all).
Some are calling Governor Cuomo’s latest approach to fracking “foot dragging.” Others are simply catching their breaths and hoping for the best. But no matter how you look at it, putting our water, land and health first makes sense. The cautious approach rings true if you look at it while using the following excerpt from the New York State Constitution as a critical lens:
“The policy of the state shall be to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty and encourage the development and improvement of its agricultural lands for the production of food and other agricultural products. The legislature, in implementing this policy, shall include adequate provision for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise, the protection of agricultural lands, wetlands and shorelines, and the development and regulation of water resources” (Article 14, Section 4, NYS Constitution; http://www.dos.ny.gov/info/constitution.htm).
Please visit the onondagaaudubon.com if you are interested in reading a longer, more detailed version of this article.
Reflection About an Unfair Future
Chip Ward is a regular contributor to TomDispatch, a blog whose purpose is to introduce the reader to voices and perspectives that are, for the most part, left out by the mainstream media. On March 20, 2012, he published a powerful piece of writing titled: “We Screwed Up, A Letter of Apology to My Granddaughter.” In it, he apologizes for the world that has been left to future generations. He speaks harshly and sadly about the way natural resources (coal, oil, gas, fertile soil, timber, water)have been plundered or polluted (oceans, our own bodies) or removed forever (many wondrous creatures). He closes the piece by urging us to be resilient and to do better for “our beloved, beautiful children and grandchildren, whose future we make today”. Post authored by Maryanne Adams