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Friday, February 29, 2008

NASA wants to clear Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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.


Anonymous said...

I live in Florida, and we have allot of rules for our ONLY endemic bird. We have these rules to try and save the population. Then as you have pointed out, things like this happen, and ruin all the small gains we make.
Although this is far from a done deal. If it happens it will be very sad day for Florida. As one of your very intelligent commenter's mentioned. One of our past senators reused to support making them the state bird, again our only endemic bird, because they are nest robbers and that did not match his "family values". I nearly threw my TV threw the window. As you say this, as if it even mattered, is greatly exaggerated. If it did matter the Bald Eagle would be a monster not worthy of saving or protecting.

Thanks for posting this as its very much under reported, as most everything important is.

I think you made a typo, in one of your posts on the memory of a scrub, stating 89,000 nuts a year, its 8,900. Aprox. an easy typo just thought you would want to know.

The relationship you have with your bird is amazing. I look forward to more as I pour through your archives.

Pete in Fl.

Realist said...

Thanks for for very important comment on the plight of the Florida Scrub Jay. I can't even grasp a Senator thinking people would fall for such a remark, but I have come to expect very little from them. Please keep in touch, we like to know whats happening in Florida. Thanks about the typo as well, it was just that and a whopper. Your right. They Scrub Jay buries on average 8,900 nuts a year and can remember where they are a full year later. They are in part responsible for reforestation from the nuts they don't eat but bury.

I have allot of things to fix up as spring approaches. New diets for rescues. etc.

But remember all who go to Florida. I live in Ca. I could not release Blue and have permission to keep him. Its against the law to feed a Florida Scrub Jay in Florida. You have a plethora of agencies who will come and get a scrub in distress. Its your duty to call them. When i found Blue they refused. But that has changed here too. We have a great Native animal Rescue center here. Its always best to try and release any bird. Scrubs bond so quickly, and need so much attention as young ( and as adults) , unless your in a rescue center, once the bird has bonded with you it cannot be released. This happens quickly.

Its also a huge responsibility to raise such a bird who need social attention constantly. They need play, love, attention and you cant just gibe it away if you tire of caring for it. Chances are it would die of lonesomeness. Its a 12-20 year commitment that should not be taken lightly.

Thanks again Pete!
Tim Rumford

Oneida said...

Good for people to know.