Sunday, January 07, 2007


Snowy Plovers

Throughout Oregon, people are locating the best places to watch birds and combining them into "trails," which are actually just a series of disconnected locations. The first trail was in the Cascades. The Oregon Coast Birding Trail has now been officially launched. There is a brochure and a Web site.

However, one bird that won't be seen much along the trail is the Snowy Plover. To begin with, there hardly are any. Secondly, they tend to congregate in areas where people don't ordinarily go. Thirdly, the government is trying very hard to keep those few people who might bump into a plover away from those few places where they could be found.

This raises an interesting question. The government has cordoned off the areas where the plover breeds, at least during the breeding season. Nobody except the government actually sees them in action. They go to a lot of trouble and expense protecting the plovers from their natural enemies.

But would it make any difference if they shut down these areas and then didn't actually do anything? The plover is so rare that they can actually count nearly every one. It is too rare to have any impact on the environment. I have no idea what it eats, but the handful of predators that eat plovers and their eggs would starve if they had nothing else. They probably wouldn't lose weight if they had no plovers at all.

And it's not as though there aren't plovers. This species is found all around the world. There is another population in Eastern Oregon that is doing just fine. We don't actually need snowy plovers on the Oregon Coast in order to save the planet, so why don't we just "declare victory." Set aside some areas of the dunes and announce that there are now plenty of plovers there, but nobody can go look. The government could then stop fretting over them and use the money for something more productive.

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