Matthew’s Musings: November-December, 2013
By Matthew Schaut, MRVAC President
Wouldn’t you know it, the year I buy an annual National Parks pass, the United States government shuts down. Going to the local refuge units never cost me anything, but now we citizens can’t go there either. It was bitter to see a picture in the paper of Jeanne Holler hanging the “closed” sign at the Minnesota River Valley Refuge Headquarters. She and the rest of the staff there have been most gracious hosts to MRVAC, and it was nice to resume the monthly 4th Thursday presentations with Dave Cahlander’s talk on Ecuadorian avifauna in September.
If governing is complicated in democracy designed by the Founding Fathers to be a caterwaul of competitive voices, it seems that habitat preservation is no less so. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind when we are coping with local issues. The National Audubon Society’s reorganization to a model which emphasizes regional (even transcontinental) flyways acknowledges the actual way our wild birds live. Above all else, Audubon exists to preserve these wild birds and their needs have to take precedence.
Thus, I have no qualms in saying that globally catastrophic trends of, to name a few: global warming; habitat degradation by overuse and misuse of water, pesticides and fertilizers; human overpopulation, overconsumption, and sprawl; and humanity’s genocidal destruction of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna are trends that must be halted. Locally, that certainly means that Minnesota should be banning frac sand mining or the transportation of tar sands oil by pipeline or freight train.
What we could be doing with all our industrial know-how is manufacturing and installing solar power. Other energy sources and the illusory needs they engender are the delusions of the present era. We could change our ways, and Minnesota could start to look like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire.
A local issue that caused at least one person to cancel their Audubon membership is Audubon Minnesota’s vocal opposition to the recently passed ordinance in Minneapolis permitting the establishment of feral cat colonies. I am a cat lover, and the Maine Coon sitting next to me used to be outdoor cat and is now an indoor cat. It was a hard transition for me to make. But when she got out, I know birds died; she brought them to the porch. If we are serious about preserving wildlife, we have to lessen the gauntlet wild animals have to run every day just to survive.
Another local issue concerning habitat that I received calls about is the plan in Plymouth to cut down 1,000 trees to address phosphate pollution in the local Northwoods Lake. At first, I thought perhaps there was a reason for removing the trees. Perhaps the site used to be grassland or a savannah, and the intention was to restore a natural habitat that would act as a filter to remove contaminants before they enter the lake – the way a functioning wetland is supposed to do. Boy was I projecting! From the news accounts I’ve read, the tree smiting has been postponed due to a groundswell of opposition to the project. The aim of the project is to restore part of Bassett Creek’s watershed but the reason for cutting the trees down was to allow heavy machinery room to maneuver.
May I ask the obvious question? What the heck is the matter with Plymouth? Is there really no alternative?. How is it that deforestation is the fall back position for ecological restoration? Some of us would suggest that if people had smaller, unfertilized lawns and didn’t mow all the way to the shoreline and kept leaves and grass clippings out of the street that the lake would be in much better shape. It’s a hard sell to discontinue deep green lawns, pesticide and fertilizer overuse and misuse. Bulldozing trees won’t solve the problem, though; low tech strategies can get the stream banks restored, but only behavioral change will keep phosphorous from running into the lake. Plymouth’s efforts, citizens and government, should be geared towards effecting that change. Whichever community does decide to emulate the Shire, the birds will thank you. Think globally, act locally. All up and down the flyway, the birds will spread their wings in gratitude.
2013 Holiday Auction
Support MRVAC’s environmental education programs at the Annual Holiday Auction, Thursday, November 21. Support a great cause while having fun! Read more.
Christmas Bird Count (CBC), December 14-15
Mark your calendars and polish your binoculars! The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is December 14-15. And don’t forget the CBC potluck, open to all MRVAC counters. Read more.
Nominations for the 2014 Trumpeter Award
Every year, MRVAC recognizes an individual who has make significant contributions to the organization. Nominate your choice for the 2014 Trumpeter Award. Learn more.
Northern Minnesota tar sands pipeline
MRVAC’s Environmental Action Committee Chair, Lois Norrgard, writes about an existing tar sands pipeline in northern Minnesota. Learn more.
MRVAC in the community
Our chapter has been a proud sponsor of the Audubon Adventures (AA) program for many years. This program provides materials to elementary school classrooms in the area. Read more about the 2013/2014 school year.
Treats needed for upcoming meetings
We always need treats! If you can bring a few dozen cookies, bars or some easy-to-eat snack to share at the September or October meeting, please call Jan at 952-858-8604.
Fire codes affect seating in Refuge Visitor Center auditorium
At upcoming MRVAC meetings (the 4th Thursday of the month, during the school year) you may be asked to fill up empty seats or move in towards the center to allow others to sit down in the auditorium. We cannot bring in extra chairs and sit in the back when the room starts to get crowded, due to fire regulations.
Please help us comply with the rules and allow us to continue meeting at the Visitor Center by switching seats if necessary and by not carrying chairs into the auditorium. Thanks.