15 June 2013

Conservancy Ecologist Conveys Nest Destruction

Comments by an ecologist employed by The Nature Conservancy indicate that an expected presence of birds nests was intentionally ignored to conduct a managed burn of a prairie.

In a blog post dated June 11, Chris Helzer, said that the planned blaze, due to constraints earlier in the season, was conducted early in June.

Screen shot of a portion of Helzer's comments. Image captured June 15, 2013.

"After weighing the pros and cons of burning in early June, we decided to go ahead with last week’s fire. We certainly burned up nests of meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows, and at least one turkey (a forlorn-looking female was wandering around after the fire). I expect most of those will have time to re-nest, but that only makes me feel marginally better about it. I’m sure we also killed lots of insects and some wildlife species." — Chris Helzer at the Prairie Ecologist website.
"Right or wrong, I guess I’ve trained myself to focus on the long-term positive outcomes of our management and not to dwell on the short-term negative impacts. I’m not sure if that makes me insensitive or just sensible." — Helzer

This short-sighted action means that there were bird nests destroyed. One obviously, and likely others as indicated by the author's comments.

This action makes Helzer or whoever else decided to conduct the burn, a perpetrator that has violated a federal and a state law.

The destruction of each nest was a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which prohibits the destruction of a nest, eggs and young. A fine can be levied for each violation.

In the case of a single abandoned nest along the Platte River recently, the fine was $500.

A Nebraska state law also prohibits destruction of nests, eggs and/or young.

For this burn to have taken place, it also was done with the knowledge that nests with eggs or young were present. For it to have gone ahead, it was done without regard for bird nests and so is a first-degree violation, because it was done intentionally despite their knowing nests would be present.

The person and/or group responsible for this action should be heavily fined, be required to issue a public apology and to develop and implement protocols to make certain this does not happen again. Prairie management is important but conducting a fire is not the over-riding concern during the nesting season. The fire could have been done after July 15th, and more than likely avoided any destruction and been done legally.