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

kmueller at ntplx.net kmueller at ntplx.net
Thu Dec 17 09:05:54 EST 2015

Talk about being hit right between the eyes! Mark, Thank You for  
saying/writing exactly what needs to be said! Your post is very well  
articulated backed up with your honorable credentials and your deep  
passion for Wildlife Preservation especially in CT.

Watching the last remaining critical wildlife habitat being turned  
into a "Paved Paradise" is profoundly saddening (and  
maddening)......and yet it continues, at will! Yes, our birding/nature  
loving community is relatively small (in the big picture) and mean  
little to the larger monetary picture. Anyone who birds in other New  
England States can clearly see the differences in the open spaces "set  
aside" for the wild creatures to live and breed. The habitat in CT has  
been turned into a State of postage stamp habitat.... a little chunk  
here, and a little chunk there! Then some in "higher places" rave  
about how they saved a piece of habitat, even though it may be useless  
or only partially useful!

This story will go on and on barely keeping up with the pace of the  
destruction of more vital habitat. One thing is for sure, we in the  
birding community can do nothing more than complain and/or raise  
awareness every time it happens (usually on a daily basis). At least  
when we complain (sometimes) our complaints get heard and are  
addressed. Unfortunately usually under the curtain of a disingenuous  
concern that ends up going nowhere!

But at least the most passionate and articulated complaints get  
noticed and discussed (usually with disdain), but at least that's  
something! So maybe more of us should follow in Mark's footsteps and  
scream even louder! At least that way we won't be glazed over as just  
more loudmouth birders who are never happy! Sooner or later if you  
throw enough sap at the wall some will stick!

Well done Mark!

Keith Mueller

Quoting Mark Szantyr via CTBirds <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>:

> 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.
>> 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.
>> 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?
>>  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.
>>  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.
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> I am over being angry about this situation and now I am just immensely sad."
> Mark Szantyr
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