Friday, April 20, 2007

ACTIVISM WORKS: Dole denounces Navy's proposed landing field

Our Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole, announced yesterday that she too will take a stand to protect wildlife.

She joins thousands of activists who have banded together to protect crucial wildlife habitat on the coastal plain of North Carolina. Citizens and politicians from all over the state have united over this struggle, including farmers, hunters, birders, environmentalists.....even the NRA!

The Navy wants to build a landing field near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, right smack in the middle of a vital migratory flyway. Every year, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl overwinter in the refuge before heading to their spring breeding grounds in Canada and in the U.S. prairie states. These birds include tens of thousands of Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, and many duck species such as Green-winged Teal and Canvasbacks. The Navy has acknowledged that the hundreds of thousands of birds may endanger pilots, but has suggested relocating birds or even poisoning them. What? Are they insane?

The Navy has held a series of public hearings (to their credit) to give the public an opportunity to speak and have their opinions recorded. Most of these hearings were on the coastal plain. But Tuesday we had a public hearing in Charlotte, and 400 people turned up! More than 100 signed up to speak! I was number 51, and I didn't speak until 10:00 pm so....someone was there until late. A lot of the speakers were farmers whose land would be taken for the landing field. Many were wildlife supporters and environmentalists. I talked about my son's ornithology class driving to Pocosin Lakes from UNC to see one of the greatest spectacles of nature - the stunning display of hundreds of thousands of waterfowl in one place. (I get chills thinking about that.)

We are blessed to still have this refuge more or less intact, given that the pork and poultry industries have all but taken over NC's coastal plain entirely with polluting factory farms (think "Smithfield" and "Tyson"). NC has more hogs than people, sadly, and their waste lagoons are fouling the air and water of our state.

But, anyway, I digress. I am thrilled that momentum is with us to stop this landing field. When we all turn out - it sometimes it seems to have an effect.

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