By Tim Manns
May 13th is International Migratory Bird Day, bringing to mind how Skagit winter birds connect this place to others in the far north. The many Red-throated Loons wintering near Deception Pass have left. Tundra Swans that joined the Trumpeters in Skagit Valley farm fields are gone too. Rough-legged Hawks hunting voles on Samish Flats have returned to the Arctic with the loons, swans and many other species to take advantage of long summer days and abundant insects and rodents as they raise their young. Some of the birds we watched this winter will nest on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the wildest places and largest protected areas in the U.S. Some years ago it was the focus of a legislative battle over whether to drill for oil. Those who wanted the oil more than the birds and more than the 200,000 caribou of the Porcupine herd, lost. Now, with a different balance of power in Washington, D.C., the would-be drillers are back and could prevail. Rather than reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, these elected officials are making it a priority to extract oil in a place where millions of birds nest and caribou make their epic migration to calving grounds. National Audubon is committed to protecting this refuge so important to birds that winter in many parts of the U.S. and places as distant from the Arctic as South America. As a centrist environmental group, Audubon gathers support from both sides of the aisle. Birds and their habitats can be common ground, and it doesn’t hurt politically that Audubon’s million plus members are spread across the U.S. in over 450 chapters. Please let your representatives in Washington, D.C. know that this place in the far north so important to birds is important to us too:
Here in Washington State, at this mid-April writing it appears likely the state legislature will not pass a budget before the session’s scheduled April 23rd finish. House and Senate each write operating and capital budgets. The latter is where the funding needs to be to protect Blanchard Mountain’s core 1600 acres from logging. The House capital budget has the funds; the Senate has none for Blanchard. For the details and advice on what we can do, see Skagit Land Trust’s webpage:
Among the legislators involved in reconciling the different budget versions are ones representing Skagit Audubon members.
At our chapter’s April meeting, Paul Bannick gave a great presentation on owls and made a plea for opposing transfer of nationally owned public lands to the states and then their likely privatization. Most of the owls he showed were photographed on public lands, which comprise much of the most important habitat for wildlife. Earlier this year, there was strong push-back by environmentalists and hunting and fishing groups to an attempt in Congress to advance the land transfer agenda. Here in Skagit County, public outcry caused our county commissioners to end membership in the American Lands Council, an advocacy group for transferr-ing federal lands and a supporter of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occu-pation. The latest strategy to be aware of is the attempt in Congress to weaken the Antiquities Act of 1906. Under this act’s authority many iconic places in America received their first protection: Grand Canyon, Zion, Olympic, and many more. Let your federal elected officials know that we value the effectiveness of the Antiquities Act in protecting wildlife habitat and places of great cultural and scenic value while keeping them in public ownership and open to all.