[Note added by SaveChatfield.org: On August 2, 2012, Joey Kellner, a naturalist and bird expert who regularly leads birdwalks in Chatfield State Park, gave the following talk to a group of citizens concerned about the Chatfield Reallocation Project. Appendix F and Appendix Q referred to in the talk are appendices to the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement. They can be downloaded here.]
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Appendix F (Species of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, and Amphibians Known to Occur in the Project Area) only lists some of the birds seen in the park. How were those species selected and all of the others not shown? Some like Snow Geese have multiple sightings of hundreds of birds and yet isn’t on the list. I have 31 pages of bird sightings of species that were not shown in Appendix F. This data (all 50,000 records) was a compilation of field trip data from Denver Audubon Society, the Denver Field Ornithologists, the Colorado Field Ornithologists, State Parks monthly birdwalks and included Spring and Fall bird counts, Christmas Counts, and Breeding Bird point counts as well as sightings from nearly 100 individuals. Why was this data not used?
Appendix Q shows the results of bird point counts. I have a problem with this data.
- Only two dates were used to determine the species present at Chatfield (and both dates were in June). Sounds like poor science to me.
- What about all the birds that use Chatfield for a migration “rest stop” to feed and shelter here on their way north in the Spring or south in the Fall (such as Peregrine Falcons, warblers, flycatchers, etc.)? What about all the birds that come and spend the winter at Chatfield (for example, Bald Eagles)? Somehow two quick glances at birds in JUNE doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of birdlife at Chatfield does it? Due diligence? I think not.
Did you know that Chatfield is designated an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society? Why do you think it’s an “Important Bird Area”? This designation does not come lightly. There are a number of criteria that must be met. Due to the quantity and quality of diverse habitats, a large number of species (and individuals of those species) use Chatfield as a permanent or temporary home throughout the year.
- Back to the point counts. Who did the “point counts”? What protocol was used? What time of day were the counts conducted? Where was the location of each “point” that was surveyed? None of this information is in Appendix Q.
- Did you know that during these two “point counts” up to 26 species of breeders were not included? Of those it is VERY interesting that Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow and WESTERN MEADOWLARK (of all birds) were not recorded during the two “point count” dates. Was it “on purpose” that these four were not counted? It’s even more interesting is that these four species are ground nesters in grassy habitats. A habitat that will be underwater and unusable by these species with the proposed 5444’ water level. And in the years that the water level is at “normal” pool level the habitat will be a completely different mix of plants (mostly weeds and emergent cottonwoods) that will be unsuitable for use by these species. Again, was it on purpose that these species were not mentioned?
- With the proposed water reallocation ALL the trees around the reservoir’s shoreline will be removed as well as those up from the confluences of Plum Creek, Deer Creek and the Platte River. Many birds depend upon those trees.
Some of these trees are Cottonwoods that are 60-100+ years old. Two species left out of appendix Q are Wood Duck and Common Merganser, both of which nest in old growth tree cavities. Cavities that can only be found in 80+ year old cottonwood trees. Were these two species left out of appendix Q on purpose?
- The bird data provided to Tetra Tech (and others) contained 10 or more years of point count data that followed the protocol determined by the US Department of the Interior for use in thousands of Breeding Bird Surveys across the country. Why was this data not used? Sounds like they’re covering up the true destructive nature of this proposal.
Enough about the “point counts”.
When asked what will happen under this plan to the resident and breeding birds at Chatfield, the “uneducated” say, “They’ll just go somewhere else to live and breed.”
Let’s think about that for a few minutes. Nature abhors a vacuum. Every habitat, every nitch, every exploitable portion of nature, by default gets filled. That’s nature’s way.
Let’s think about this in human terms. Let’s say we have a small town in the middle of nowhere and all the residents of the town live in two apartment buildings. And as nature would have it both buildings are fully occupied. Every nitch is filled. Now let’s say a fire happens in one of the buildings. All the residents of that building run outside and watch it burn to the ground. Like Chatfield, their “habitat” is a total loss. Now let’s ask the question, “What will happen to the resident and breeding birds, or people?” They will die, period. They have nowhere to go. The other apartment building is completely full. Those residents don’t have room or resources to share. There is nowhere to go, to live or raise their families. Birds are the same way. After the habitat removal the residents that still have territory will chase away all incoming birds of their own species.
Let’s say the average bird lives 5 years (some live longer, most do not). The trees will take ~40 years to grow back to what they are today. That’s about 8 “bird lifespans”! (40 years/5 year lifespan for a bird)
Back to our apartment fire example. Where do you thing the now homeless people would go? Move in with their neighbors!!! I don’t think so. Tell them that their homes will be back in 600 years! That’s 8 “people lifespans”. (75 year lifespan * 8 lifespans) For these people there will be no future generations as they scrounge for food and shelter and then die.
Let’s visit the trees again. Under this proposal the trees and habitat at Chatfield will be back to what it is now in 40 years…oh, wait! No it won’t. It will NEVER come back to what it is today. The periodic inundation every 7-8 or so years will kill all trees and vegetation. A few trees may grow near the perimeter at the 5444’ level, but it will never be like you see it now, EVER.
How many birders, hikers, bikers, horseback riders, joggers, runners and fisher-people do you think are going to pack into what little remaining riparian habitat is left? What kind of “quality experience” will people have at Chatfield State Park? What impact will we have on the wildlife living in that little remaining habitat?
Thank you for your time.