20 Jan Cheasty ad appendix
Posted January 19, 2015 from Seattle,WA
I ran an ad in the Jan 20, 2015 eidition of the Seattle Times which appeared in the A-section. I apologize for using an unexplained acrynym, PAT in the last sentence. Scroll down to the end for the explanation of that. Scroll down also for the ad.
Here are comments about some of the points in the ad:
The Kicker of the ad says “Less than 1% of Seattle is in natural areas.”
Let me quote Denise Dahn of the Seattle Nature Alliance from a recent letter she wrote to the Seattle Forestry Commission (By the way, neither Dahn nor the SNA, was involved in producing the ad.):
“Less than 1% of our city is left as Park Natural Area (City Park Facts, 2014). By eliminating the passive-use policy in urban forests, these precious fragments of peace, quiet, abundant plants and wildlife will be become over-used by competing specialized-user groups. Instead of sharing on equal footing, every user-group will demand their own piece of the Nature Pie. What will be left for ordinary people? Where will the old, the very young, the less-abled, the low-income, or the solitary and quiet people go to enjoy nature? Will our fast-growing city lose the nature that makes Seattle special?”–Denise Dahn for Seattle Nature Alliance
“catastrophising over a fairly normal invasive situation.”
Many of us feel that the mountain-bikers have been using the non-native invasive plant issue as a means to an end. The first aspect of this is overstating the case. Cheasty has a blast of ivy infestation surrounding the Seattle Parks dump/storage area, but the status quo ante situation in Cheasty is not that bad from the Wetland north. Of course there is a non-native presence all through Cheasty but hearing people talk about it at meetings will give anyone a sense of unreality if they are familiar at all with nature in the Northwest.
Delia and I get around to natural areas all over the state including ones in Kitsap County, east King County, Magnuson Park, Union Bay Natural area and many others, so we know better than to think of Cheasty as some great outlier. Non-natives are a problem but there is a distinct danger in thinking that their presence makes an area worthless.
The point isn’t that restoration isn’t important. The point is it should be done deliberately, not in industrial doses, not during the breeding season and, most significantly, the restoration of Cheasty or any other natural area should not be traded for ownership, or seen as an excuse for a change in land-use.
Two issues regarding restoration that are slightly peripheral to the ad
Restoration community is a overly coniferous focused—and this is especially a problem in Cheasty
From talking to Mira Latoszek, the author of the book Seattle’s Beacon Hill, I have become aware that Beacon Hill was essentially an island of deciduous forest in a sea of coniferous. Latoszek provides three references to support this belief which I will list here:
The Duwamish Tribe’s name for Beacon Hill translates to “yellow-green spine,” referring to the much warmer color of green of Aspen, Big-leaf Maple and Willow (and possibly Water Birch and Black Cottonwood? I sure do not know!) that lived on Beacon Hill compared to the dark green of the Doug Fir/ Western Red Cedar/ Western Hemlock forest that covered much of the rest of Seattle.
I have noticed that regardless of the location and even in riparian areas, the restoration community in Western Washington is somewhat nutty for coniferous. Since coniferous is generally less productive for wildlife and birds, this is especially a problem where coniferous does not belong and should not be encouraged, such as Cheasty. There is only one appropriate coniferous tree to ever plant in W WA riparian wetlands, (which is much of Cheasty) in any case, and that is Sitka Spruce and Sitka Spruce seems to be spaced far apart in natural NW riparian wetlands, between large numbers of deciduous trees.
The Restoration community can fail to see the advantages of triaging invasives
Furthermore, there is another potential problem with the restoration community’s approach. It is not to view the native issue with a “triage” mentality. Some non-natives are playing the same role in the eco-system as a similar native species played and can therefore be very valuable to the wildlife Community. Particular examples include, say the non-native Water-lillies in Andrews Bay at Seward Park and the Norway Maples in Cheasty. Removing either in the name of helping nature, especially on an industrial-scale and quickly, on the simple grounds they are non-native, would be a serious error.
Manipulation of a homeless issue
I have made this point on this blog-site before, but the homeless situation was managed to favor the land-grab from the beginning. Instead of doing anything about a man who was excavating the wetland area of Cheasty, Parks and the Mtn.bike community working together just used the damage to promote the notion that only bike trails could rid Cheasty of this menace. In fact, Park vips gave the homeless man a disparaging nickname and included pictures of his work in all their PowerPoint presentations about Cheasty. When KIRO TV discovered the issue, it was dealt with immediately, in the absence of bike trails.
Wilson’s Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Many species nested in Cheasty, including some probably we don’t know about–it sure didn’t get much coverage. A Cooper’s Hawk family that has been nesting there for at least 4 years (this info from conversations with raptor expert Ed Deal) actually fledged 5. We have reason to think a Barred Owl raised a family there. Brown Creepers appear to do especially well in Cheasty, and it’s possible an American Goldfinch family bred at the wetland. Dark-eyed Junco nested, along with Spotted Towhee and Song Sparrow and presumably Pacific Wren, all birds that forage and nest on or near the forest floor.
Swallows see the city from the air and it’s easy to see why they like Cheasty so much if you look at an aerial map of Seattle’s “waistline:” It’s the only game in town as far as wet riparian forest. On one of my trips I heard a Tree Swallow overhead, the first Tree Swallow I have ever seen or heard of being seen or heard on Beacon Hill. I found a Hammond’s Flcatcher, a good bird for Seattle, during migration in the spring.
However, for the advertisement I highlighted two species, Wilson’s Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher for a particular set of reasons. They belong to groups that are either in gradual decline or serious collapse all over the country. The large group that they both belong to is the group of neotropical-migrant-insectivores, birds that travel to the tropics or near tropics for the winter and that depend on insects and some fruit for survival. This is an at risk group, with most showing declining trends on the Breeding Bird Survey and some in collapse in certain some or many areas.
Also signifigantly, both birds are mid-canopy foragers and mid-canopy nesters, meaning that most of their activity is not near the top of the canopy but down at the 5 -20 ft level essentially where humans are in a forest.
The Pacific-slope Flycatcher in particular belongs to a group that is in deep trouble conservation-wise, the Avian Aerial Insectivores, which catch flying insects on the wing, and include the Nighthawks, Swallows, Swifts and Tyrant Flycatchers of which the Pacific-slope is a member (Bats, which are an honorary mammalian member of this catchall group are also in bad trouble.) The fact that Pac-slopes aren’t in crisis as of yet shouldn’t be too reassuring to anyone given the way the world is going.
I do not bet against birds and I know I frustrated reporters to my own detriment by not predicting the failure of any birds as a result of the bike park. I won’t say it this way “The bike park will kill off these birds.” That’s betting against birds. But I would say the same thing in a different way: In this time of global extinction, we should not conduct an experiment to see just how much pressure these birds can take.”
Especially considering that the Biking Community is already showing signs they will never be satisified with any limitations on the footprint of the Bike Park. (In a recent Urban Forestry Commission meeting, Jan 7, 2015, the Mountain Bike community voiced a desire for at least 5 cross trails in the park. In earlier iterations of the plan they had plans for a “Free Ride Area, ” which they have never disavowed.)
The PAT is being led into bland Defiance…
At a City Council Meeting on June 8, 2014, the full Council passed a resolution with approved amendments declaring that this stage of Cheasty development would only include one multiple use perimeter trail. The PAT (Project Advisory Team), a group that Parks set up (and packed) to guide Cheasty development, is being led in such a way that no plan that complies with this resolution will even be considered. The favored plan will be in outright—although bland—defiance of it.