24 July 2013

Proposed WMA Name an Oxymoron

Having been at the proposed wma acquisition along the Niobrara River south of Nenzel, it is a very familiar place where more than twenty bird surveys have been done during the past decade. It was exciting to hear of its potential acquisition, an effort which can only be appreciated and strongly supported.

There is however, one point of strong disagreement, and that is the proposed name: Chat Canyon WMA.

The name was selected because "there is an unnamed canyon that comes into the valley on the property on the north side," according to a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff member, in response to my email inquiry.

Including chat in the name is appropriate because the species occurs there and the site was the locale for chat research.

It is the selection of canyon which is misleading and an oxymoron. Aerial photos and topographic maps indicate the canyon, but only a short section of its southern extent is on the tract. There is much more valley than canyon included among the property parcels.

Also, canyon refers to a land feature where chats would not be expected. Chats prefer the valley, almost to the exclusion of any upland such as the canyon, because these birds prefer deciduous vegetation to coniferous on the upland.

The Niobrara River valley is the most important chat habitat and to the primary extent of the area.

A more suitable name would be Chat Valley WMA. This alternative is preferential as it better reflects those features associated with the Yellow-breasted Chat.

The following elevation map indicates the approximate extent of the canyon included within the area proposed for acquisition. It measures about 15-1600 linear feet (indicated by the yellowish line), while the entire canyon is about 6600 feet in length. So, only about 25% of the canyon extent is within the parcel being considered.

This is another reason using canyon as a named features indicates a land feature which is only partially within the confines of the proposed wma, and more associated with the neighbor's property, perhaps leading people to think the canyon is publicly accessible.