[CT Birds] A short history of devastation(long)

Mark Szantyr birdinggeek at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 20:44:43 EST 2015


A good friend of mine reminded me that in the year 2000, before some of our newest birders were born, i wrote a letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant that was used as an Op-Ed. It dealt with phase one of taking the best grassland habitat in CT, Rentschler Field, and turning it into a place for UCONN to play football. This habitat was in the top three of grassland habitats in New England. It was ruined but magically the birds still used it.... Until next year. After that, a high priced strip mall type abomination will rrplace nesting Grasshopper Sparrows and Upland Sandpipers. 

I yelled about this in 2000. I was "reprimanded" by COA leadership because they were spanked by the Governor's office. 

Not long after, Rowland was arrested for being greedy. 

Maybe, just maybe, this will help you understand why I am so angry and frightened by the devastation ongoing at Hammonasset. I believe that this could end as tragically. This friend insisted i post the letter again, so if you will, I've included the Op-Ed below. Sorry its long. For the record, i am not going to stop pushing buttons snd yelling. Maybe someday.......

"I am writing in reference to Carrie Budoff’s article in the Hartford Courant, dated 15 August 2000, concerning the environmental impact of the new stadium in East Hartford.
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> I am a board member of the Connecticut Ornithological Association and the secretary of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut.  I have served on the DEP's advisory committee for endangered and threatened species of birds and have been a field biologist / researcher for the DEP on a number of projects.  I have worked for the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife where I was the State Coordinator of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Migratory Bird Stopover Habitat Survey.  The bulk of what I do in the state that involves birds is done voluntarily.  I am horrified at the way the Department of Environmental Protection is falling down in its duty to act as its name suggests, that is, protector of  the environment.  
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> Rentschler Field is not the first or only incident of this failing but certainly, when we stand to lose one of the two or three largest nesting concentrations of a species, it is worthy of note.   It has been suggested that the state will remedy the tragedy that is about to take place in East Hartford by creating another habitat some twenty or so miles away.  They say it is their deepest wish to see birds using this new habitat in the spring.  It is my hope as well.  To think that the Grasshopper Sparrows, Upland Sandpipers, Horned Larks and other species using the Pratt and Whitney property will relocate to that distant parcel is just ludicrous.  What really happens when a habitat-specific species, that is, a species that is critically dependent on a very specific of habitat to nest in,  is displaced?  Usually what happens is they do not nest.  The additional stresses of looking for suitable habitat where it once was and where they remember it to be most likely causes their demise.  But hey, its only a few birds, right?  
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>  If the land at Rentschler Field was state-owned, the birds using this critical and sensitive habitat would be adequately protected under the Endangered Species Act.  In fact, there would be more than enough reason to designate that area as special under the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area Program.  In an ideal world, one where the environment is as important as the pocketbook, the DEP would buy the land and set it aside as a true jewel in their crown.  The only way the state could build its stadium there would be to claim that these birds are causing the state undo financial hardship. If you really believe that is the case then you have not looked closely at Hartford or the Rowland administration lately.  Probably, at least at this time, money is not one of the state's biggest worries.  No, money we have.  We just don't seem to be able to get any of it to the department that is supposed to ensure the health and safety of the land we live on and the creatures we live with.  There is plenty of money to kill mosquitoes and the debate about this fiasco is another topic altogether, but I am at a loss to understand how, when the state has a natural wonder of this magnitude in the back yard of its capital, it can throw it away. 
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>  In fact, the stadium is not the major factor in the loss of this beautiful field.  Probably, the stadium and the birds could co-exist.  The planned further development of the land by Pratt and Whitney into homes and office spaces would, however, certainly mean the end of anything that makes this piece of land special. 
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> I am confused by the lack of responsibility shown by Pratt and Whitney.  As a company that has made countless dollars exploiting humankind's ambition to fly like the birds, and as a company that uses the "poster-bird" of solid conservation practices, the Bald Eagle, as its logo, you would think that an opportunity to give something back would be seen as the right thing to do.  Wouldn't it be good marketing or public relations to show the world that we have learned and gained a lot due to our interaction with nature, and in Pratt's case, with birds in particular?  That maybe if we stop for a moment and take time to look around, we might see something new or different or inspiring in the natural world around us, that maybe, life is bigger than corporate assets.  How arrogant of us to imply that humankind is the center of the universe, that we can't leave room for another living thing, that this dominion we were charged with is really interpreted as domination. 
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> Perhaps by now you have called me an environmental freak.  Perhaps you believe that I am a bleeding heart that mourns the loss of even a single sparrow.  Maybe you are right.  It seems the situation is that Governor Rowland wants the stadium in East Hartford.  It seems that Pratt and Whitney sees an opportunity to sell this land in order to boost its own corporate worth.  It seems that the Department of Environmental Protection will roll over and Art Roque will stay in Rowland's pocket in the plundering and paving of Connecticut.  It seems as though yet another reason for me and the thousands of other environmentally concerned citizens to stay in this state of high taxes, high gas prices, high crime, low culture, and growing incivility is going by the wayside. Maybe the state's leadership forgets that we actually do vote.
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> With this outcome as inevitable, I am afraid we are all losing something very important.  You might not recognize it now.  Your children may not recognize it.  But as sure as money and power are king, one generation will look up to see that our reasons for living are gone.  That generation will wonder how they will get through the constant gray drudgery of living in a world without natural wonder.  
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> I am over being angry about this situation and now I am just immensely sad."
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Mark Szantyr


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