In Florida, meetings have been attracting bird and nature enthusiasts over plans by NASA to clear a section of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for a launching pad. The meetings at there height drew about 300 people and none appeared to be in favor of the idea. Suggestions of using the old Canaveral Air Force Base property were proposed, which would be ideal because it would involve redevelopment of an existing site, which sounds like a better economic development project than clearing wildlife habitat and would serve NASA's needs just as well. I hope NASA listens.
Few other developers could get away with destroying a habitat that supports the only endemic bird in the State, the Florida Scrub Jay. As our new poster Andromeda pointed out, “There was a push a few years ago to make it our state bird. ( this humble writer thought it was the state bird...) Sadly, it was squashed claiming that the bird didn't represent "family values" since it has been known to rob nests. The senator, of course, conveniently left out the fact that they're co-operative breeders; they're so unique in that they live in little family groups and the young from years past stick around to help their parents rear future chicks.” Andromeda was right on the mark.
This has to be one of the most ignorant statements about nature I have heard spewed from the mouth of a politician in a long time. Although it does not surprise me in the least. Our own president called the Constitution “Just a God damned piece of paper!” when an aide mentioned portions of the Patriot Act were unconstitutional.
Scrub Jays are not the nest robbers people often claim they are. They do rarely take eggs, more so with the Western Scrub. Still this is very rare. Even if they were true, it would be meaningless to me in how I perceive these birds. Do we think less of the Bald Eagle because it kills to survive and robs nests. It's nature and how nature works. Were the only animal that kills for fun, and even our own species. If it was the state bird, this development plan would face more opposition.
So they may not be the state bird, but they are in great danger from development and on the endangered list. The complex NASA is proposing would cost more than half a billion dollars to build, and would take a toll on fragile wildlife and wetlands in the refuge and surrounding area. And it could close down some of the choice spots for bird-watching, kayaking, fishing and beach combing.
"There are just a lot of unknowns," said Dorn Whitmore, supervising ranger at the refuge. "It could close most of the refuge to visitors. Half of Mosquito Lagoon could be closed all or part of the time, and parts of Playalinda Beach could be shut down."
“About 500 families of endangered scrub-jays and other wildlife such as bald eagles, gopher tortoises and marsh rabbits also could be threatened and their habitat destroyed,” Whitmore said.
Because of the concerns, NASA is meeting with residents during four public hearings in TitusvilleNew Smyrna Beach this week.
"We're looking for issues, concerns and information that would help us," said Mario Busacca, the director of planning and special projects in the Environmental Program Office at KSC.
"But if people come expecting answers to all their questions, they will be disappointed."
NASA officials said the idea of a private launchpad is in its infancy.