Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Niagara Community Forum Guest View

View of the Robert Moses State Parkway looking...Image via Wikipedia
Reconfigure Robert Moses Parkway

The Robert Moses Parkway presents an almost continuous barrier between the city and its waterfront. So egregious has been the intrusion that the most important planning efforts of the last two decades have all suggested ways to mitigate the impact of the Parkway. These include the Niagara Falls , Waterfront Master Plan by Sasaki Associates (1992), the Citizens Map of Niagara Falls by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust (1997), the Jerde Partnership development plan for Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. (1998),and the Main Street Plan by the City of Niagara Falls. (2001).

A range of treatment options should be considered to reduce the negative impact of the Parkway on the waterfront environment and as a barrier between city neighborhoods and the river, falls, and gorge. These should include elimination of lanes, removal of sections of the highway, reduction of speed limits, and introduction of at-grade intersections with the intent of reducing or eliminating automobile traffic and increasing pedestrian access. The issue requires a great deal of additional technical work, design study, and public discussion. It will almost surely involve different approaches in different locations and contexts. But given the Parkway’s limited value for transportation and its substantial conflicts with the goals of waterfront redevelopment in Niagara Falls, a systematic reconfiguration of the Parkway is an absolute requirement of this strategy.

This nonsense is approaching 20 years and it has been almost 40 since the city was cut off from its waterfront. Business districts have failed, neighborhoods have been lost, neighborhoods continue to deteriorate and taxes are on the rise.

How long must we wait for our State to get on board and do what is right for the County of Niagara? The scoping process on the sections of Robert Moses which cuts the city off from its resources should have been completed years ago--not started on October 27th 2010.

The citizens of this city should not be required to continually repeat what has been studied upside down and sideways for what seems like eternity. If the city's application for a $52 million grant, countless references in its Comprehensive Plan and countless study results, are not enough, what is?

End the scoping and start planning for our economic future.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Facts About The Niagara River Gorge Rim Study To Restore Native Landscapes

Niagara Glen features many rapids downstream o...Image via Wikipedia
I was surprised to read a recent Niagara Gazette letter that stated the Wild Ones Niagara (WON) chapter is “made up of individuals who, by and large, belong to the Niagara Heritage Partnership (NHP). That is not true. The letter also said, “NHP joined forces with the national Wild Ones organization in an effort to give new life to their endeavor [to remove the Robert Moses Parkway].” Again, not true. We don’t sell or divulge member information, so I’m not sure how the letter writer, Michael Parsnick, came to those conclusions.

Here are the facts. If you join a Wild Ones Chapter, you have also joined the National organization. WON has 57 members. Four members (0.07%) belong to NHP. Recently, Wild Ones National surveyed their 2,000+ members asking why they joined. The main responses were an interest in regional native plants and wanting to learn more about them.

The Wild Ones Niagara study, Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim, is not “duplication.” In the last twelve years, no one has provided the public with any socioeconomic statistics or revealed what educational and professional opportunities could occur if an ecological restoration along the Niagara River Gorge Rim included only a non-motorized, active transportation trail.

Wild Ones Niagara hired an environmental design firm from Syracuse, NY, EDR, to research the economic benefits of replacing the current conditions along the gorge rim with restored native landscapes replete with active modes of recreation—walking, hiking, and bicycling. Some call it eco-tourism, heritage tourism, cultural tourism, active tourism, or creative tourism. We call it raising our quality of life and creating professional career opportunities for current and future residents. Niagara rising after Love Canal.

WON is advocating for an ecological restoration of the botanically unique gorge and gorge rim landscapes, not Robert Moses Parkway removal. Our mission statement, “Create a sense of place through regional native plants, ecological restoration, conservation biodiversity, and open space preservation” clearly reflects our intentions, objectives, and goals.

Before receiving any Niagara River Greenway Funding, we provided a requested statement to the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee that clearly said our project is a study. It is not about an action. The study, in progress since March, is examining the potential educational, social, economic, and environmental benefits of conservation biodiversity, open space preservation, restoring the Niagara Gorge Rim.

Before presenting our project to The Niagara River Greenway Commission, we obtained The Seattle Mobility Plan and research from the Trust for Public Land, a national organization endorsed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as an Authority. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is a business leadership organization. The information, provided by national and world experts, is on our website,

According to a document prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI, University of Massachusetts, Amherst), the economic benefits of “maintaining the natural environment” are measurable. It’s called environmental economics. PERI’s report, The NYS Park System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State, “challenges the presumption that there are stark trade-offs between generating jobs and protecting the environment.” In addition, it says, “quality of life in New York improve[s], and thereby influences business location decisions and the ability to attract a high-quality workforce.”

Other research has found many positive socioeconomic benefits could occur and significantly improve the quality of life for our residents and our region if the NHP proposal and our study were embraced, implemented, and marketed.

Wild Ones Niagara has systematically provided the public with well-documented facts, not Chicken Little antics. A study to restore the native landscapes between Niagara Falls, NY and Lewiston carries substantial socioeconomic merit. High paying professional careers, education opportunities for our young people, quality of life through natural ecological services, and the revitalization of urban centers are a few of the opportunities noted by land planners around the world. Our Wild Ones study could literally change how we live in our region.

We believe an informed public is empowered and agree with Mr. Parsnick that being “vigilant” is important, especially when it concerns the local officials he referenced.  All bureaucrats have an obligation to be fully informed about an issue. If they don’t like what they hear, they still have an obligation to tell you everything so you can decide. In our opinion, it is a sad commentary on any elected official’s integrity if they refuse to respect information and attempt to denigrate and suppress it.

UB President, John Simpson summarized it best when he said, “It is hard to understand a logic based on an unwillingness to change an obvious failed status quo.” So, why would some elected officials deliberately place our greatest asset--the City of Niagara Falls, the waterfalls, the gorge, and rim—“in a remarkably disadvantaged position?” Why would any elected official attempt to “hamstring one of our best opportunities” for economic development, something that has the potential to benefit everyone?

Merely keeping what we have now without exploring all of the opportunities for ecological and economic excellence is discrimination. It suppresses. We feel an informed public coupled with documented, authoritative information is a civic right. You have a right to know all the facts and socioeconomic possibilities that could occur with a fully restored Niagara Gorge Rim.

Michelle Vanstrom, President, Niagara Falls and River Region Chapter and
National Board Member, Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landscapes 
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Niagara Falls, NY Author Paul Gromosiak Discusses Tabloid "Reporting"

Niagara Falls, in front the American Falls, in...Image via Wikipedia
The editor of a local "Tabloid"continues to sit on his throne judging people with bias and lies. He presents himself as an expert on just about everything and relentlessly spins every week in his publication.

Yes, I did write some articles for his paper when it first came out,but stopped when I wasn't remunerated. I was never a columnist for the Niagara Gazette. Yes, I did write some articles for the The Buffalo News"I stopped when I began working on another book about the falls.

The editor of the tabloid said I didn't write a book in the past ten years. I wrote three. He said all my are out of print. Only one of my nine books is out of print. And I still have the same publisher. He sometimes refers to my books as pamphlets; then other times as books. Does he know the difference?

One time the editor called me a "know-it-all." Then in another publication he used me as an accurate source.

Once again attacking my work, he said I never mentioned Pontiac's Rebellionin my book Water Over. On page 45 of my book, it says, "on September 14, 1763, as a part of Pontiac's Rebellion, a group of young, dissident Seneca men, angry with the British for no longer paying them to assist with the operation of the portage around the gorge and falls, ambushed a wagon train just above the"Devils Hole"

In his July 12-July 26, 2000 issue, the editor described my book, Nature's Niagara, as "an invaluable resource for amateur geologists, bird watchers and other fans of nature, as well as a companion for a quiet stroll on or a fishing expedition to the Devil's Hole.

I would like to challenge the editor to make a list of all his positive contributions to the City of Niagara Falls. I will make a list of my contributions. Then let neutral parties compare the lists to determine who has done more. I would like my list to include Niagara Falls State Park

The editor calls his tabloid a newspaper. Well, from what I understand, a newspaper prepares its articles by interviewing people about whom it is reporting. I was never contacted by anyone at the tabloid.

The editor often calls people negative names. It exhibits a lack of good taste and intelligence.

Recently, the editor called the mayor of Niagara falls a "moron," more than once. Use of that term is an insult to both the mayor and mentally challenged people.

The mayor is intelligent, honest and dedicated to improving the City of Niagara Falls. He deserves the respect due any properly elected official. I am sure he respects disagreements.

Paul Gromosiak
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday

Some pictures from my gardens, a mix of transforming leaves, berries and color combinations.

Night Light Pollution Affect Songbirds' Mating Life, Research Suggests

Corneille-Negative0-08-6A(1)Image via Wikipedia

"Researchers investigated the effects of artificial night lighting on dawn song in five common forest-breeding songbirds. In four of those five species, males near street lights started singing significantly earlier in the morning than did males in other parts of the forest.
Further study of the effects of that behavioral shift on blue tits based on comparison of their reproductive behavior with and without street lights over a 7-year period showed real consequences. Females near street lights laid their eggs on average a day and half earlier. And males near lights at the forest's edges were more successful in attracting "extra-pair mates," meaning that they more often sired offspring with females other than their primary social partners." You can read the rest of the article HERE.
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wild Ones RFP - Seeds For Education Grant Request for Proposals

Request for Proposals

The Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landcsapes' Seeds for Education Grant Program (SFE) provides small monetary grants for the purpose of establishing outdoor learning centers for child-centered projects that create native plant landscapes within the United States and Canada.

Eligible Projects must
1) focus on the enhancement and development of an appreciation for nature using native plants,
2) emphasize student and volunteer involvement in all phases of development,
3) emphasize the educational value of the proposed site,
4) show creative design and complete and thoughtful planning,
5 use of and teaching about native plants and the native plant community is mandatory and the native plants must be appropriate to the local ecoregion and the site conditions (soil, water, sunlight).
Information on local ecotypes is located HERE.
6) include a signature from a local chapter. The local chapter in western New York is Wild Ones Niagara Falls and River Region (Wild Ones Niagara). Contact information HERE.
7) Grant winners will be required to acknowledge Wild Ones as a funding source in project materials.

Project Examples:
Design, establishment, and maintenance of a native plant community  such as a prairiie, woodland, wetland, etc., in an educational setting such as an outdoor classroom,

Developing and maintaining an interpretive trail landscaped with native plant communities,

Developing a wetland area to study the effect of native vegetation on water-quality improvement

To be considered for the annual awared, non-profit groups such as schools, nature centers, house of worship, or simimilar organizations must  apply by Octover 15, 2010. Notification of awareds will be made by February , 2011.

The grant recipients are those that most successfully reflect the Wild Ones Mission to educate and share information about the benefits of using native plants in our landscape and to promore biodiversity and environmentally sound landscaping practices. Receipients are chosen by the Seeds for Education judges, a volunteer panel of educators and naturalists. The SFE Nursery Partners, a select groupd of native nurseries and propagators, also donate seeds and plants to the successful grant recipients.

Download an application HERE.

Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landscapes is a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization. The Niagara Falls and River Region Chapter (Wild Ones Niagara) mission is to create in a sense of place through grassroots partnerships, advocacy and education about regional native plants and natural landscaping.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Letter to Niagara River Greenway

The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge as seen from the...Image via Wikipedia
Letter to Niagara Greenway

I am completely disgusted with the recent announcements of Greenway Funding being given for a Dog Park and for renovations to Lewiston's Art Park. I love dogs, Artpark, and Lewiston, but to me this is a misuse of funds. I always thought the Greenway Grants were to be used for achieving a more "green" or
natural environment which also would provide better access to the riverfront. I don't see where either of these meet this criteria. Those of us who support [Robert Moses] Parkway removal and preservation of the gorge rim with a return to natural flora and fauna, and better hiking trails with better access to the riverfront are appalled! We wait and wait while dogs get a park and Artpark gets better seating

I signed with hopes of a response...
Beverly Bathel
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Niagara's ER Baxter Rant Will Be Published On Garden Rant

On August 30, Bob Baxter, a regular Fading Into Myth contributor, will be a guest blogger, “a Garden Ranter.”  From August 30 through Labor Day, garden bloggers from all over the web are scheduled to post pet peeves during a two week long (maybe longer), Garden Rant “Second Annual Guest Post Week.”

The four Garden Rant owners are looking for “the 10 Hottest Rants of the Year.” If Fading Into Myth’s award-winning poet/author/contributor surpasses, he’ll be presented with a “cute badge” to put on the Niagara Heritage Partnership’s website.

The Garden Rant submission guidelines are simple. Keep it short and lively. Make it highly opinionated. Rage or advocate. Tell it like it is. Those provocative qualities suit Baxter and he’s opining how it is here on the Niagara River and what needs to change. Baxter even offers a festival suggestion, though I hesitate to admit that in Niagara County, since the one he talks about might be mistakenly embraced.

The upcoming rant is pure Baxter. At times droll, mocking, big grin funny, controversial, truthful and punctuated with outrage. He’s still “Looking For Niagara,” the one we’ve almost lost to New York State Parks and Albany. (Review here. Video here.)

So, who’s behind the Garden Rant blog and what’s their story? One of the Garden Rant writers is a Buffalo, NY magazine editor. Another blog owner lives near Saratoga Springs. I also met the other two at the 2010 Buffalo Garden Meetup held in July, but can't remember what they do outside of their blog. By their own admission, they’re “convinced gardening matters, bored with perfect magazine gardens, in love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens, suspicious of the “horticultural industry,” appalled by pesticide use, and turned off by activities that involve landscaping with plant materials.”

I think Baxter’s found four kindred souls as long as they don’t present him with a bouquet of daffodils. Not even an artificial one.

Remember to bookmark the date and website Then click over to You’ll know what to do. It will brighten his day. Afterwards, come back and tell us what you think.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

August In Bloom A Garden Bloggers Photo Journal

Our western New York summer has been hot and humid with very little relief from rain. One of the best attributes of using native plants in the garden is their extensive, deep root systems provides them with the ability to thrive and bloom without little supplementary watering. Blooming in the yard  great blue Lobelia, honeysuckle, clethra, goldenrod, asters, rubeckia, helianthus, monarda, trumpet vine, oakleaf hydrangea, penstemon, and tansy. Several shrubs have produced berries that will be eaten by migrating birds: elderberry, dogwoods, aronia.

Coneflowers in August

great blue lobelia


Rubeckia with dogwood berries

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Global Warming - What You Can Do For Pollinators

Bumblebees and the flowers they pollinate have...Image via Wikipedia

Q: What can we possibly do if the loss of bees is due to climate change? (Not poor sources of pollen)

A: According to the book I am reading, Keeping Bees, the major causes of bee decline are pesticide use, climate change, invasive species, and habitat fragmentation. Some predict up to 60% of the planet's species will be unable to find enough suitable habitat for their populations to be viable. What you can do follows:

1. “Grow bee -friendly plants, preferably native species local to where you live. Not cultivars, native. Some suggestions: asters, blazing star, golden rod, helianthus (sunflower), Joe-pye weed, coneflower, bergamot (bee balm), evening primrose, cinquefoil, milkweed, willows. Plan to plant so the garden is aesthetically pleasing. Most won't get the premise, which is why education is important.

2. Vegetables that attract bees include squash, tomatoes, strawberries, fennel, coriander, and other umbellifers. Raspberries and blackberries' flowers feed bees and their old stems provide a place for them to rest. Provide nest sites for bees. Blackberry and raspberry canes are used by small carpenter bees, masked bees, small relatives of the leaf utter bees and orchard bees use the old canes as nesting sites and they overwintering inside them.

If... you have wooden benches, fences, or a grape arbor, let the bees burrow into them.

If you have ground bees you should cherish them and consider yourself lucky.

Do not apply wood chips, pebbles, or other surface obstructing materials. Almost no bees will be able to reach the soil.

3. Do not use pesticides.

4. Buy organic food whenever possible.

5. Walk on the grass. Ground nesting bees prefer bare spaces created by those who ignore do not walk on the grass instructions.

6. Encourage bee-friendly practices at various government levels.”

Locally, letters went out in May asking our politicians to join a national movement claiming their level of government as a supporter of National Pollinator Week ( the last week of June). Not one elected official responded. We live in an agricultural region.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Niagara River 1 dbImage via Wikipedia

There are three major reasons that the funding proposal put forth by the Town of Lewiston, "Plateau Dog Park and Nature Preserve,should be denied funding at this time and for the proposed location.

1) The Greenway Commission has properly noted that the proposed location for the dog park is within the area of study already found consistent and funded by the Commission and appropriate standing committee: "Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim." The Commission voted to table the proposal for the dog park based on this observation. Nothing has changed with regard to this; the study of the gorge rim is not yet complete; the identical proposal for the dog park, with no change of location, now requests full funding.

For a standing committee to fund the dog park proposal would be to disregard this decision as if it were meaningless. While this action may be defensible in some circumstances, technically legal, in this instance it is not.

2) The Niagara River and its shorelines has been designated by the Audubon Society and others as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area, the first international area so designated. The Lewiston Plateau is within this area; the "Nature Preserve" of the plateau referred to in the dog park proposal title ("Plateau Dog Park and Nature Preserve")is therefore also within this area. The Nature Preserve, which has been established as a grassland for ground-nesting birds, is home this year to two nesting pairs of grasshopper sparrows, a species "of concern" in New York State, where their numbers are greatly diminished because of habitat loss. The presence of these birds have been documented by a well-known birder and we have photographic evidence. Other ground-nesting birds such as the meadowlark and bobolink are nesting there,

The current Nature Preserve is small, given the preferences of many ground-nesting species, including the grasshopper sparrow. We are fortunate to have them--and should be considering the enlargement of the Preserve, not establishing a dog park which will virtually ensure that a larger Preserve will not happen in the future.

3) The proposal itself is poorly written in terms of content and is, at the very least, misleading. At its worst, it might appear fraudulent to

a) There will be none of the applied for funds spent on the "Nature Preserve." Because it is a grass land, no "landscaping" is needed; landscaping, in fact would be detrimental to the Preserve; it would not, as is claimed by the proposal, "improve fauna and landscape."

b) What is proposed will not be in any way be "extending Olmsted's legacy."If, in fact, if the Olmsted vision had any relevance at all on the plateau, the proposed dog park would be destroying it. Anyone with even a scant knowledge of Olmsted's legacy, most visible in our area on Goat Island above the Falls, knows this to be a preposterous statement.

c) There are repeated references to the Nature Preserve in the proposal, which seem to be related to the following: a chain link fence will be erected along the boundary of the Preserve, to prevent the inadvertent loose dog(s) from the penned area of' the dog park from entering the Preserve. It is along this fence, probably believed to be unsightly, where trees ("landscaping") will be planted. These will not be of help to the "fauna" of the Preserve. They area cosmetic to hide a fence that wouldn't be there in the first place had a dog park not been contemplated for this location. That this mitigation is necessary calls the dog park location into question.

The proposal has checked "Environmental" on the application for funds. Putting a dog park in this category is a perversion of the word "environmental" by most generally perceived definitions.<

e) Under "Ecological Integrity" of the proposal is the following language:"...this project will improve the health, vitality, and of natural resources and wildlife habitats with and emphasis placed on restoring and retaining ecologically significant areas and natural landscapes in and over the water and inland."

A dog park provides none of these and to suggest it is capable of delivering them stretches credulity beyond the imagination.

I speak strongly against the funding of this proposal for a dog park (Nature Preserve shouldn't even be in the title) in this location. The Town of Lewiston should be encouraged to resubmit a revised proposal for a dog park in a different location.
Bob Baxter,
Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council Chair
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The Niagara River Greenway is a Rudderless Boat

The Niagara River Greenway is a rudderless boat

Author: Larry Beahan

Published Date: Jul 26, 2010 12:00 AM

The Niagara River Greenway is in danger of foundering in a cataract of well-meaning but disorganized and competing voices. The existence of a Greenway Commission sounds like someone is at the helm but the commission has no legal tools. It has no rudder.

More than 50 years ago, the New York Power Authority tapped the Niagara River to produce a bonanza of clean electric power. But the communities that contain the Niagara River have felt short-changed of its benefits. The Power Project, itself, mars the natural beauty of the gorge. The magnificent torrent of the falls is sapped of strength by water diversion. The chemical industries that it powers pollute the surroundings and tourists flock to the Canadian, not the American, falls.

Federal relicensing of the Power Project required reparations to these injured communities. The New York Power Authority and the state of New York arranged for the reparations to be delivered as $450 million over 50 years to fund a Niagara River Greenway. A Greenway Commission was appointed to develop a plan and make “recommendations” for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the Greenway.

An excellent plan was developed by the commission, but the implementation of the plan is faltering for lack of coordination. The actual money was awarded to four independent standing committees. They are required to ask only if the commission considers their spending proposals “consistent” with the Greenway Plan. But the Standing Committee may do whatever it wants after asking this advice.

I listened to Bob Kresse, the current Greenway Commission chairman, fume at a recent meeting. He watched a presentation by Wendel Duchscherer Architects on a plan for Greenway Signage funded by one of the standing committees. Many months ago the commission had found the proposal for the study “consistent” with the plan but had had no opportunity to influence this all-important matter of what the whole Greenway would look like, not even when signs were about to be painted.

I am Sierra Club representative to the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition, which has a seat on the Ecological Standing Committee. We spent $100,000 to fund a project which inside of the year will provide a plan for the ecological restoration of the Niagara Gorge rim.

In light of this study, the commission tabled a decision on a proposal by Lewiston to build a dog park that will endanger a songbird habitat. Despite this lack of a finding of consistency and disregarding the $100,000 ecological plan, the “host community standing committee” immediately funded the dog park.

Somebody needs to coordinate the spending of this $450 million in a reasonable, consistent and agreed-upon way. The Greenway Commission must be given a rudder.

Larry Beahan is Sierra Club representative to the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition.

© The Buffalo News

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Language of Bees

The Language of bees
Source: Environmental News Network, 24 February 2010

Bees communicate their floral findings in order to recruit other worker bees of the hive to forage in the same area. There are two main hypotheses to explain how foragers recruit other workers; the "waggle dance" theory and the "odor plume" theory. The dance language theory is far more widely accepted, and has far more empirical support.

Honeybees do not only waggle dance to tell hive mates the whereabouts of good eats, they also bump and beep to warn others when big trouble awaits at some of those floral diners according to a recent study.

In 1947, Karl von Frisch correlated the runs and turns of the dance to the distance and direction of the food source from the hive. The orientation of the dance correlates to the relative position of the sun to the food source, and the length of the waggle portion of the run is correlated to the distance from the hive. Also, the more vigorous the display is, the better the food.

There seem to be two types of dances: the circle for food less than 100 meters distant and the figure 8 for longer distances.

Now there is the discovery of the "stop" or warning signal as the first negative or "inhibitory" message ever found in bees.

Previously the only recognized messages were all about how good and where the nectar was at various locations relative to hive.

"Originally people called it a begging signal," said bee researcher James Nieh of the University of California at San Diego, regarding what was for 20 years considered a mysterious behavior. "It's usually produced by butting the head and giving a short beep" to another bee that is in the middle of providing information to the hive about a specific feeding site.

So Nieh and his assistants devised a series of experiments to simulate attacks by predatory crab spiders or by bees from competing colonies.

"In all causes we found yes, they all significantly increased 'stop' signals," Nieh confirmed. His results are reported in the February. 23 issue of the journal
For full story, please click HERE.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Youngstown Yacht Club Against Proposed WInd Turbines in Lake Ontario

Please help us by contacting the Niagara County, New York Legislators to voice your opposition against NYPA's Offshore Wind Turbine project and vote on the Niagara Gazette survey, links attached!

Please help us prior to the July 27th meeting of the Legislature.
Thanks for your help,
The Youngstown Yacht Club Board of Directors

The YYC Board is embroiled in a very significant effort to organize YYC Members and others in our community aligned in opposition to the New York Power Authority (NYPA's) Great Lakes Offshore Wind  (GLOW) project.

This project  is opposed by Fort Niagara, the Youngstown Village Council as well as towns or villages of Sardinia, Porter, Oswego, Greece, Hamburg and Cattaraugus County to name a few. The Niagara County Legislature initially supported this project but they are now having second thoughts. They will review this topic again at their July 27th meeting. We would like to have you help our cause by contacting the Niagara County Legislators on the list below and by emailing them to state your opposition to this project.

As mentioneded in [the YYC newsletter], Ripple's, NYPA's stated objective is to facilitate the installation of a wind turbine farm about 2 miles off the shore of Fort Niagara, from the mouth of the river to Wilson. The areas contiguous to this farm and radiating out 1/2 mile in all directions would likely be closed to recreational navigation. This would result in the loss of our Olympic Circle and the site of the Level Regatta. Theses functions cannot be moved further out as the depth of the lake is too great to set the race marks.

This problem goes far beyond the loss of a magnificent scenic vista and natural resource. The electrical power that would be produced by this farm of 450 foot tall turbines is unneeded in WNY so it will be  diverted downstate, as our excess power currently is. As this sporadically produced electrical power becomes available (wind turbines produce at capacity about 30% of the time) the most logical place to reduce output to maintain the needed balance in the grid would most likely be the Robert Moses generation facility in Lewiston (a very green facility).

Nuclear facilities don't spool up and down very efficiently and coal burning facilities like Somerset would have to be operating on standby mode in case the wind  is too strong or too light which happens frequently. The financial incentive to build these wind turbine farms go to the developers who will be chosen by NYPA and will receive long term Power Purchase Agreements  (PPA's) from NYPA guaranteeing the developers a much higher than the market price for electricity. This cost is then born by the rate payers. Tax credits from governments are also part of the incentive to entice developers to build these projects.

Remember the ethanol craze of a few years ago,  again transactions that made no economic sense without massive subsidies. The potential winners here are the wind turbine manufacturers, none of which are in the US. NYPA has spoken of thousands of jobs being created, but they will not be from the manufacture of the turbines. The installation of massive pedestals in the lake bed will require specialists in marine construction this will produce few if any jobs. The staging  port for such a project would have to be Rochester since no port in Niagara County can accommodate vessels of the size required to build out this project.

Here is how you can help.

1) Here is a link to the Niagara Gazette website, at the bottom of the home page is the spot to vote in their poll against the wind turbine project off the Niagara shore.

2) Below are a list of names of the Niagara County Legislators with hyperlinks to create emails directly to the members. Please click on each and state your opposition to the GLOW project. If you know how to copy and paste you can use the same text to each legislator and not have to retype them.

Thanks for your help.
John Reinhold,
Commodore YYC

Niagara County Legislature
Richard A Marasco
809 Vanderbilt Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Renee Kimble
3302 Hyde Park Blvd
Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Jason J Cafarella
2259 Forest Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Dennis F. Virtuoso
2703 Independence Ave
Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Vincent M Sandonato
824 91st Street
Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Danny W Sklarski
2119 Tuscarora Rd
Niagara Falls, NY14304

Gerald K Farnham
5460 Hinman Road
Lockport, NY 14094

William L Ross
6761 Walmore Rd
Niagara Falls, NY 14304

Philip "Russ" Rizzo
590 William St
North Tonawanda, NY 14120

Peter E Smolinski
449 Robert Dr
N. Tonawanda, NY 14120

Paul B Wojtaszek
30 Sherwood Ct.
N. Tonawanda, NY 14120

John D Ceretto
685 Cayuga Dr.
Lewiston, NY 14092

Clyde L Burmaster
2515 Parker Rd
Ransomville, NY 14131

David E Godfrey
4821 Lake Rd
Burt, NY 14028

Anthony J Nemi
87 S New York St
Lockport, NY 14094

Wm Keith McNall
739 Willow St
Lockport, NY 14094

Richard E Updegrove
4688 Day Rd
Lockport, NY 14094

John Syracuse
6091 Condron Rd
Newfane, NY 14108

Michael A Hill
3464 Stone Rd
Middleport, NY 14105

Dog Park Environmental Issues

Dog fecesImage via Wikipedia
Apparently a couple of people who sit on the Niagara River Greenway Commission (NRGC) and vote on the submitted projects neglected to mention the letter read to the Host Community Standing Committee that rescinded the statement that the Town of Lewiston dog park is not within the Wild Ones Niagara project boundary. It is. The Lewiston Plateau dog park was also almost completely installed by the time it came before the NRGC for the second time for a consistency vote. Kudos to Robert Kresse, the Niagara River Greenway Commission chair, for abstaining to vote on the recent round of greenway proposals this week.

The Host Community Standing Committee (HCSC) also ignored a request for an Environmental Impact Assessment, although the HCSC chairperson did ask the grant writer if he noted the request. He did. They unanimously voted fund the dog park regardless.

Here are some dog park statistics and their environmental impacts. The document provided was produced at the request of the Planning and Development Depart in Lowell, Mass. It can be read HERE. Below is a summary of the document written by Dillon Sussman of the Conway School of Landscape Design.

Aesthetic Issues of Dog Waste
1. It's unsightly, smelly, and messy
2. Dog waste can spread harmful bacteria and parasites
3. Excess nutrients are released from dog waste creating "nutrient pollution."

Dog waste is cited as the 3rd or 4th largest contributor of bacterial pollution in urban watersheds. E coli, salmonella and giardia readily infect humans and can cause serious illness or death. Parasites: hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms can be passed from dog feces to humans. Typically transmission occurs when skin comes into contact with the larva. Roundworm eggs can’t be seen by human eyes. They hatch in human intestines and attacks can include attacking the retina, causing blindness.

Each gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform colonies.

A study done at a Seattle watershed found 20 percent of bacteria in water could be attributed to dogs (EPA, 2001).

Dog feces has higher phosphorous rates than that found in cow manure, broiler chicken litter or swine manure.

Anyone that owns a dog knows urine burns grass. It contains nitrogen. The higher the concentration and more frequently applied, the worse the problem becomes. The contaminated runoff can lead to serious water quality problems.

The EPA says nutrient pollution is “worthy of environment concern." Nutrient pollution has consistently ranked as one of the top causes of degradation in some US waters for more than a decade. (EPA website, 2008)

Dog parks may amplify the aesthetic, sanitary and environmental problems caused by dog waste by concentrating it in smaller areas. (Lewiston fenced 1.3 acres for approximately 1,600 dogs.)

Most smaller dog parks host 50 dogs at a time and they are often overrun with dog droppings. A 1998 Los Angeles study counted 2,000 dogs using a 3 /4 acre park in a single week.  The average dog produces 3 /4 pounds of poop every day. 1,000 dogs doing their daily duty in a park will produce 750 pounds of excrement in a week. The park will be speckled with approximately 1 poop every 33 square feet. There isn’t room for it to decompose as it does in the open. Even if picked up and removed it may leave bacteria and parasites behind.

Why the dog park is an item of concern for the grassland habitat at the Lewiston (NY) Plateau Wildlife Refuge located on the Niagara River Gorge Rim.
The negative effects of excess nutrients in a Boulder, Colorado dog park found that native grasses, which are accustomed to low nitrogen levels were unable to compete with nitrogen-loving exotic-invasive species that flourished when dog waste increased on the site (Watson, 2002)
Environmental Impact of Dog Waste
San Francisco recently determined that pet waste accounted for 4 percent of their residential waste stream (Jones, 2006)

Typically, dog waste is picked up in plastic bags and taken to a landfill. Plastic bags do not decompose for decades, effectively mummifying the waste and taking up valuable landfill space. Dog waste decomposition also produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

Flushing dog feces down the toilet has mixed results. Many wastewater facilities are already over taxed and are unable to process the waste. Some found dog feces to be very hard; it blocked their machinery.

It’s possible to mitigate the harmful effects of a dog park, however, it hinges on dog park surfaces and water handling. Few dog park designers seem to consider where the contaminated water will go once it leaves the park’s fence. Decomposed granite is popular. It’s impervious to water. It must be watered to keep the dust down, but it runs off the surface carrying fecal and urinary residue with it.

Regular watering, intensive mowing regimens, overseeding, and fertilization may help maintain a grassy surface. Periodic closure of a dog park gives grass time to recover. (Arvasin, 2003, Burkhardt, date unknown)

There's no water at the Lewiston Plateau.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lincoln Nutting's Flowering Plants of Western New York

Monarda fistulosa, bergamot, Mint Family

Lincoln Nutting, a photographer and naturalist, has photographed an A-Z list of Western New York's flowering plants. The website (link HERE) states everyone has permission to download and use his images. The only request is for the user to "please credit Lincoln Nutting, the Eckert Herbarium, and Buffalo State College."

The native plant pictured is a pollinator favorite. Its common name is bee balm.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Letter to the Editor

"The song birds that brighten spring mornings have been in decline since the 1960's, having lost 40% of their numbers. Birds that breed in meadows are in even more trouble. Once common species such as the northern bobwhite, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, and grasshopper sparrow have declined 82, 72, 68, and 65%, in total numbers, and are completely absent from many areas that used to support healthy populations. For most of us, hearing such numbers triggers a passing sadness, but few people feel personally threatened by the loss of biodiversity.

Here is why every one of us should feel threatened. Here is why it matters. Losses to biodiversity are a clear sign that our own life-support systems are failing. The ecosystems that support us-that determine the carrying capacity of our Earth and our local spaces--are run by biodiversity. It is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water, creates topsoil out of rock, buffers extreme weather events like droughts and floods, pollinates our crops, and recycles the mountains of garbage we create every day." (Doug Tallamy. Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, author Bringing Nature Home, Wild Ones member)

Grasslands, like those at the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, provide valuable ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, storm water control, water filtration, absorption of air pollutants, oxygen production, habitat for rare birds and butterflies and agricultural pollinators. Grasslands also provide social benefits through enhanced recreational and tourism opportunities and education.

Wild Ones Niagara advocates for open space preservation and stewardship, biodiversity through local ecotype preservation (native plant communities), and Creative Tourism. Our region’s grasslands, woodlands, and ancient old growth forests have the potential to provide us with billions in economic and socioeconomic benefits. Our Niagara River Greenway (NRG) project, Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim, has never been done. It elevates the Niagara River Greenway Plan to an exceptional level of excellence. At its core, reclamation, restoration, and a positive economic benefit assessment for all of Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and the Niagara River Greenway region. It includes the Lewiston Plateau Wildlife Refuge, the site of a future dog park.

The Wild Ones Niagara project lacks malice. They asked the NRG Commission to support the fully funded project by tabling the consistency determination for the dog park. That happened. The next day, the dog park proposal applied for funds from the Niagara County Host Community Standing Committee. They also were asked for a stay to complete the evaluations. Lewiston refused, claiming private land ownership. They were funded without a NRG consistency determination.

Why circumvent a regional process and research? On 27 May 2010 a request letter to the Lewiston Supervisor concluded, “At the end of the day, it’s not that programs and projects are about reclamation and restoration; it’s that they are also about education. Education in these financially challenging times is what is going to save us.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WNY Media Offers Observations About the Niagara River Greenway

The City of Buffalo finds many ways to FAIL. They can’t hire a qualified police chief in a transparent matter. They can’t partner with a national low income housing firm without demanding kickbacks like a petulant child. And the only way they help an urban farm is get out of the way, when everything in their being wants to restrict and stop. One would think all the ways to FAIL had been taken. Oh, you naive soul. No, now we can’t even spend our own money.

On this page I have previously tried to make sense of the forgotten and neglected Niagara River Greenway Commission. A quick refresher: as part of the New York Power Authority relicensing agreement, $9 million a year is available to be spent on park, tourist, and environmental projects all along the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Fort Niagara. This being New York, however, nothing is easy and simple. The Commission, created by state law, is charged with planning and promotion functions. However, they spend none of the money. That is left to four “standing committees,” made up various civic and political leaders. The Commission declares a certain project (rehabbing La Salle Park, for instance) to be “consistent,” and then the standing committee for that project spends the money.

These standing committees display various levels of competence. While all organized by the New York Power Authority, they show various abilities to even update their websites. I am willing to give credit where it is due: the Ecological Standing Committee is the most organized, with project statuses and updates listed, and even a helpful map of project locations (your humble correspondent requested such web-based updates at a Commission meeting last year – coincidence? Probably.

But back to the FAIL. The Buffalo and Erie County committee has thus far been completely unable to get out of its own way. It is made up of only four members: Kathy Konst (Erie County), Sue Gonzalez (Buffalo), Robert Daly (NYPA), and Anne Joyce (Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy). And yet this four member committee has spent less than 5% of the monies allocated to it so far in over three years of existence.
Tracking the money and dysfunction is challenging because of the incomplete records on the website: only one annual report is listed, and no meeting minutes are available for over a year in 2009-2010. But from discussions with local sources, in addition to the public records, the following emerges:

Kathy Konst and Sue Gonzalez are new to the game. They first appear in public records on February 23rd, 2010 in meeting minutes. Before that Holly Sinnott (previous Erie County planner) and Karen Fleming (City Division of Urban Affairs) were their organization’s representatives, and in their two and half year tenure, not a thing happened. The 2009 Annual Report for the Committee cheekily describes it this way:
The Committee began organizing in 2007 and in the spring of 2008 adopted Committee Protocols. One of the Agreement Commitments was for the Committee to appoint a Trustee. The process consumed a great deal of time, the Committee entered into a Trustee agreement with the Bank of America in September 2009 [sic].

That’s right – it took half a year to agree on the ground rules, and two years to find a bank account. Its not that the committee members disagreed on philosophy, which projects to fund, or anything remotely substantial. They couldn’t figure out who should sign the checks and spend the money. After two and half years of wrangling, Bank of America was brought on to keep the money, and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo to manage it. In 2009, these services cost $20,191 – $5,500 in bank fees to BofA, and $14,651 in project management fees to CFGB. To watch six projects that haven’t happened yet.

Yes, that’s right, it gets better. Once the committee put most of its shit in same box (October 2009, according to the report), NYPA agreed to transfer over $6 million for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Out of that $6 million, the committee has agreed how to spend $3.6 million of it. And how much of that cash has actually been spent? $360K – 5% of the total handed to it by the relicensing agreement. $340K to BOPC to get started planning two projects, and $20K in fees referenced above. $5.6 million still sits in that BofA account, as of January 2010, presumably racking up banking fees.

There are projects announced in 2008 that still haven’t seen a dime, not because the money isn’t available, but because of general incompetence. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a generally reputable and forward looking group, has finally managed to move ahead on planning projects for Scajaquada Creek, Riverside Park, and La Salle Park. Grand Island is still waiting on money for Fisherman’s Landing. But what’s the hurry – its not like Buffalo is a poor city or in the midst of a national recession.

Our community pays attention to funny things. $250K for a failed restaurant makes tons of news. Colin Dabkowski at the Buffalo News writes weekly columns on the tragedy of $5M in county (non)spending on arts and culturals. But $9 million of waterfront spending on a wide swath of Western New York gets barely a yawn? The mismanagement of our regional resources and lack of coherent attention span is astounding.

The WNYMedia post is available HERE.

Study of Wildness Plants Offers Insight to Climate Change

The types of trees, where the stands of these trees start and stop are changing, and so we need to understand without the touch of man, what is naturally happening within climate change on it’s own, to  help us figure out the best steps forward as we unravel the great big mysteries around climate change.

Jensen adds beyond an indicator of climate change, areas like the West Chicagof-Yakobi Wilderness may offer possibilities we haven’t yet considered. Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. In His Own Words

Frederick Law Olmsted Papers "this is an age in which we grow more and more artificial day by day, and see less and less worthiness in those pleasures which bring with them no marked excitement...a parallel movement was an increased appreciation of nature in the broad combining way of scenery as evidenced by the amount of time and money expended on tourism to areas of strikingly beautiful natural scenery.

I've skimmed all 614 pages of my book, "The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted Supplementary Series Vol. 1 Writings on Public Parks, Parkways and Park Systems." He never advocates for or mentions dog parks.

Olmsted Papers page 155: "I want you to see that when people ask for a park, it may be perfectly possible to please them very much with something which is not a park, or which is a very poor and much adulterated kind of park and that it would nevertheless be dishonest, quackish, to do so. A park is a work of art, designed to produce certain effects upon the mind of men.

Olmsted Papers page 190: " Nor can I think that in the park proper (italic), what is called gardenesque beauty is to be courted. These may have places, but they do not belong within a park."

Olmsted Papers page 190-191: "The question now comes up: How can a community best take this work in hand? It is a work in which private and local and special interests will be found so antagonistic one to another, heated prejudices are established, and those who would be disappointed in their personal greeds by whatever good scheme may be studied out, are so likely to combine and concentrate force to kill it..."

Olmsted Papers page 538: Take for instance the operations of roads and walk making, the dressing of ground surfaces with herbage, the building of objects. To those who do not see the very different way in which they are intended on the [Niagara] reservation will always be thought that the introduction of decorative detail would be an improvement..."

Olmsted Papers pg. 538 continued: " Once the reason for excluding decorative detail is lost sight of, there is nothing to hinder the introduction of any amount to it, thus bringing the about the gradual transformation of the [Niagara] Reservation into a flower-garden order, than which nothing would be more deplorable."

Olmsted Papers on Niagara Reservation page 539: [what] for many years have passed under the name of improvement, and especially of "landscape" or of "park" improvements has been presenting objects for admiration calculated to draw off and dissipate regard for natural scenery."

Olmsted on Niagara Reservation page 540: What was the organic purpose of these improvements? To draw visitors by any means to a particular piece of ground where money could be made out of them, and to so occupy them when there that they should not wish to go elsewhere. Some of them left without having looked for a single moment at anything beyond the filed of its artificial improvements."
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hummingbird Video

Lou Gold Discusses Wendell Berry

For readers unfamiliar with his works, here are a set of precepts that convey the perspective and purpose of Mr Berry's work:

1. Beware the justice of Nature.

2. Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from Nature or in defiance of Nature.

3. Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.

4. In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour.

5. Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.

6. Put the interest of the community first.

7. Love your neighbors--not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.

8. Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.

9. As far as you are able make your lives dependent upon your local place, neighborhood, and household--which thrive by care and generosity--and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.

10. Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.

There's an excellent summary of the canon of Wendell Berry at:

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Wendell Berry Stands Behind His Writing - Takes Back Papers

Arts Beat Blog reports Wendell Berry Takes Back Papers. Article HERE.

For decades the Kentucky poet, critic, and farmer Wendell Berry has advocated personal activism on behalf of the environment. There should not be a “split between what we think and what we do,” he has written. “Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.”

Mr. Berry is living up to his own standards. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on Wednesday that Mr. Berry decided in December to withdraw personal papers he had donated to the University of Kentucky, where he spent time as both a student and teacher. According to a letter obtained by the Lexington paper, Mr. Berry objected to a decision to name a basketball-players’ dormitory the Wildcat Coal Lodge.

“The University’s president and board have solemnized an alliance with the coal industry, in return for a large monetary ‘gift,’ granting to the benefactors, in effect, a co-sponsorship of the University’s basketball team,” he wrote. “That — added to the ‘Top 20’ project and the president’s exclusive ‘focus’ on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — puts an end to my willingness to be associated in any way officially with the University.”

The university’s Board of Trustees approved the new $7 million Wildcat Coal Lodge in October. Joe Craft, head of Alliance Coal, proposed the name and helped to raise the money for it, according to the Herald-Leader.

Mr. Berry intends to transfer his papers to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. A statement released by a university spokesman expressed disappointment with his decision.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nine Quiet Leaders' Commandments And Nine Ways To Distinguish Yourself

Nine Quiet Leader Commandments
1. Always learning, always improving, always practicing.
2. Stay balanced.
3. Be resourceful, be a problem solver.
4. Show vision.
5. Be nice, be decent, be fair.
6. Serve.
7. Show gratitude.
8. Communicate well.
9. Listen always.

Nine Ways to Distinguish Yourself
1. Learn
2. Laugh
3. Look
4. Leave a Lasting Impression
5. Love
6. Leverage
7. Likability
8. Listen
9. Lead
Source: Lead Quietly

Hallelujah - Free Hugs Video

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gaming View of BP Oil Spill

Paving Roads Can Increase Weed Invasions

This article was found HERE While it is well-known that roads can spread invasive weeds, new research shows that some roads are worse than others. In Utah, areas along paved roads were far more likely to be invaded than those along 4-wheel-drive tracks. This suggests that limiting road improvements would help keep out invasive weeds.

"Each step of road improvement would appear to convert an increasing area of natural habitat to roadside habitat," say Jonathan Gelbard, who did this work while at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and is now at the University of California at Davis, and Jayne Belnap of the U.S. Geological Survey in Moab, Utah, in the April issue of Conservation Biology.

Cheatgrass, knapweeds and other non-native plants have invaded nearly 125 million acres of the American West. Roads are a big part of the problem: for instance, vehicles can transport non-native seeds into uninfested areas, and clearing land during road construction gives weed seeds a place to become established. Intuitively, it makes sense that improved roads would spread weeds more than primitive roads because the former have more traffic, more exposed soil and more maintenance such as mowing and herbicide treatments, all of which can favor invasive species.

To see if non-native weeds really are more likely to invade along improved roads, Gelbard and Belnap surveyed the plants along 42 roads with varying degrees of improvement (paved, improved surface such as gravel, graded and 4-wheel-drive track) in and around southern Utah's Canyonlands National Park. The researchers determined the cover and number of species of non-native and native plants in two areas: roadside verges (strips along the road), and "interior sites" near but not right next to roads (165 feet from the verge).

Gelbard and Belnap found that road improvement greatly increased the cover of non-native plants in roadside verges. Notably, cheatgrass cover was three times greater in verges along paved roads than along 4-wheel-drive tracks (27 vs. 9%).

In addition, verges along improved roads were also wider, ranging from about three feet on each side of 4-wheel-drive tracks to 23 feet on each side of paved roads. This means that improving roads can convert natural habitat to non-native weed-infested roadside habitat. "For example, our results suggest that improving 10 km [about 6 miles] of 4-wheel-drive tracks to paved roads converts an average of 12.4 ha [about 30 acres] of interior habitat to roadside [habitat]," say Gelbard and Belnap.

The researchers also found that improved roads had more non-native plant cover in interior sites. Again, cheatgrass cover was more than three times greater in interior sites adjacent to paved roads than in those adjacent to 4-wheel-drive tracks (26 vs. 8%). Overall, the cover of non-native plants was more than 50% greater in interior sites adjacent to paved roads than in those adjacent to 4-wheel-drive tracks.

In addition, road improvement changed the number of both exotic and of native species in the interior community study plots: the number of exotic species was more than 50% greater and the number of native species was 30% lower.

"Our findings suggest that major opportunities remain to prevent exotic [non-native] plant invasions in this semiarid landscape by minimizing the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing roads," say Gelbard and Belnap.
Jonathan Gelbard (
Jayne Belnap (
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Birds That Eat Bugs in Your Garden

Bugs in your garden? Here's an article from eNature on birds that eat insects.
Garden Patrol: Ten Birds That Help Control Garden Pests

By Sarah Boyle

Read this article and more in the NWF National Wildlife Magazine.

AS A GARDENER, it can be your worst nightmare: watching helplessly as hordes of destructive insects attack your plants. With a little planning and simple landscaping, however, you can help moderate garden pests naturally in your yard. Your weapon: bug-eating birds. "During the late spring and summer months, insects make up the great majority of many avian species' diets," says NWF Chief Naturalist Craig Tufts. The trick to enticing these birds to your property, he notes, is to first learn which of them range in your area, and then to plant appropriate types of native cover that provide insect- and bird-attracting natural foods--leaves, fruit, pollen and nectar--to sustain both adults and their insect-dependent nestlings. Tina Phillips, project leader of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird House Network, adds, "The most important thing to do to attract birds to your yard is to provide an enticing habitat, not just a nest box. Birds choose a nest site based on its surrounding habitat."

Along with native vegetation, offer birds a water source and a few different nesting sites: brush piles, ledges, nest boxes, shrubs and various types of trees--including dead tree limbs and trunks. "As long as they don't create a safety hazard for people, dead trees provide nesting areas and are a great food source for insectivores," says Tufts.

Needless to say, birds will not completely rid your yard of insects, and even if they could, you wouldn't want them to do so. Some insects are imperative for a healthy garden, and birds do not discriminate between destructive and beneficial bugs. But they can help keep insect populations in your neighborhood at a stable, balanced level, benefiting both you and your neighbors. Subsequently, you'll have a nicer garden to show for it throughout the summer.

Which bug-eating birds are the best ones to attract to your yard? There's no simple answer. Scientists cannot say for sure how many insects a certain bird will eat in a summer day. But depending on where you live, the following ten species can be valuable allies in your efforts to sustain a vibrant garden:

Purple Martin
Purple Martin: Aerial feeders that forage over land and water, purple martins eat a variety of winged insects. These swallows range across the eastern half of the United States and parts of the Pacific Coast and Southwest. West of the Rockies, purple martins often nest in tree cavities and building crevices, while in the East they typically nest with as many as 30 pairs in hotel-like boxes or hanging, hollow gourds. The migrants often use the same nesting site each year. In addition to providing nest boxes in the East, attract the birds with ponds and wetland areas.

Others: tree (summers in northern half of the United States), cliff (most of the country, except for the Southeast), barn (most of the United States, except for portions of the Southeast and Southwest) and violet-green (West) swallows

Red-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo: Until recent population declines, red-eyed vireos were one of the most common woodland birds in North America. These migrants forage in trees, feeding mainly on crawling insects--especially caterpillars--but also on other invertebrates and berries. They range from the upper Northwest to the East Coast, nesting in deciduous shade trees. Plant Virginia creeper, spicebush, elderberry, blackberry and dogwood to supplement insect diet.

Others: white-eyed (eastern half of the country) and warbling (most of the United States, except for parts of the Southwest, Texas and Southeast) vireos

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow: Well-adapted to various landscapes, chipping sparrows are common throughout backyards in most of North America, except for areas of Texas and Oklahoma. They eat insects and seeds from the ground, shrubs and trees. These common birds tend to nest in evergreens, making nests out of grasses, weeds, roots and hair. Attract them with pines, spruce, arborvitae and yew.

Others: lark (from central through western United States), vesper and savannah (both throughout the northern half of the country during the summer) sparrows

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker: Smaller than all other North American woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers readily visit backyards throughout the United States, excluding some areas in the Southwest. Their diet consists mainly of insects, though they also feed on sap, berries and seeds. The birds excavate nesting sites in dead trees and stumps, which are later used by other birds. They prefer deciduous trees such as aspen and willow, and may eat the berries of dogwood, mountain ash, serviceberry, Virginia creeper and poison ivy.

Others: hairy (throughout most of the country, except parts of Texas and the West) and ladder-backed (arid areas of Southwest and Texas) woodpeckers, as well as flickers (throughout the United States)

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler: Known for their sweet songs, yellow warblers eat a diet that is about 60 percent caterpillars. They also eat moths, mosquitoes, beetles and some berries. Widely distributed throughout North America, yellow warblers range from Alaska to the majority of the lower 48 states, except for areas of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. They nest in small trees and shrubs and often prefer willow. Plant berry-producing plants native to your area.

Others: American redstarts (eastern half of the country and upper Midwest), common yellowthroats (throughout the United States) and yellow-rumped warblers (throughout most of the country except in areas of the Midwest)

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird: With their numbers increasing due to nest-box projects along "bluebird trails," eastern bluebirds occupy semi-open areas east of the Rockies. They eat a variety of insects, other invertebrates and berries. Eastern bluebirds nest in tree cavities, old woodpecker holes and nest boxes. Plant elderberry, hackberry, dogwood, holly and redcedar to supplement their diet.

Others: western and mountain bluebirds (both in the West)

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk: In reality not hawks but members of the nightjar family, common nighthawks cover most of the continent, eating a variety of flying insects. Partial to open space, they nest on level surfaces, such as the ground or flat rooftops in suburban and city areas. Attract common nighthawks to industrial and corporate rooftops.

Others: lesser nighthawks (Southwest), Chuck-will's-widow (Southeast) and common poorwill (West)

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe: Easily recognizable by their fee-bee song, eastern phoebes--members of the flycatcher family--oftentimes take up residence on buildings and bridges. Found throughout the eastern half of the United States (frequently near water), they eat many insect species, as well as other invertebrates and berries. Provide a nesting platform and plant native hackberry, serviceberry, poison ivy and sumac to supplement their diet.

Others: black (Southwest) and Say's (western half of the United States) phoebes

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole: Colorful migrants that readily visit backyards, Baltimore orioles eat insects, fruit and nectar. The songbirds range from the central Midwest to the Northeast and nest in hanging pouches in deciduous trees. Plant blackberry, serviceberry and cherry for food, as well as elm, sycamore, tupelo and other shade trees as nesting spots.

Others: hooded (Southwest), Bullock's (mostly western half of the country) and orchard (eastern half) orioles

House Wren
House Wren: Regular backyard visitors, house wrens have diets that consist almost exclusively of insects and spiders. Not very fussy about sites, these birds may nest in nest boxes, mailboxes, building crevices--even in pockets of hanging laundry. House wrens range throughout most of the lower 48 states during parts of the year. Include low-lying shrubs (such as American beautyberry) or brush piles in your yard--sources for cover, nesting materials and food.

Other insect-eating wrens that regularly visit backyards include: Carolina (East), Bewick's (southern half of the United States and Pacific Coast) and cactus (Southwest) wrens.

These ten birds, of course, are not alone in consuming backyard pests. Many other species--such as the northern cardinal and black-capped chickadee--eat insects or feed them to their young during the summer. Yet as summer winds down, your efforts to attract birds shouldn't come to a halt. "The natural foods you provide in your yard throughout the year will encourage these songsters to visit again," says Tufts. As a result, the birds may return and combat a new generation of insects the next year.