An open letter to California Governor Jerry Brown. For background details on how we got here, why I'm begging the Governor of California to step in and stop the animal cruelty please read "The Failure to Protect Federally Protected Birds."
If you feel compelled to speak out, please contact the governor's office. Governor Jerry Brown can be reached at (916) 445-2841 or you can send an email through his contact page.
Dear Governor Brown,
I am making a personal appeal to you on behalf of over 200 federally protected birds (Cliff Swallows) that have been killed by CalTrans since early April of this year. The unlawful, prolonged suffering and inhumane killing of these birds is continuing right now, in Petaluma, underneath the Highway 101 overpass that goes over the Petaluma River in Sonoma County. This is a story I first wrote about for the Huffington Post on April 16. You can find that story and some of the history here.
Governor Brown, my plea to you, and your sense of what is right, stems from my frustration and disappointment with the State of California, CalTrans, California Dept of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife, and your office, which has been contacted several times on this issue.
Governor Brown, I understand you have bigger fish to fry with CalTrans, especially with the mess they have made of the Bay Bridge. However, this issue of animal cruelty and suffering will not be ignored and cannot be allowed to continue. I am asking that you please step in and help stop the illegal killing of these birds due to the incompetence of CalTrans and their subcontractor, C.C. Myers.
Here you will see video of what so many people are angry about. This is a video of what is happening shot by wildlife photographer George Eade.
Governor Brown, you hold the highest elected office in California and my request is that you simply mandate that CalTrans take down the bird netting. All you need to do is pick up the phone, or send an email. It is something to ponder, the fact that you are probably the only person in the state of California who can save the lives of hundreds of federally protected, beneficial birds.
In case you are wondering, taking down the bird netting will not interfere with the Highway 101 expansion project. CalTrans refuses to answer the question as to why the bird netting is even necessary. These migratory birds travel over 6,000 miles from South America to use the same nesting site year after year, and they migrate here every spring to eat our mosquitoes and other pest insects. This is how the intelligence of nature works.
Cliff Swallows are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). This protection is at both a state and federal level. The killing or "Take" of these beneficial songbirds is prohibited. Enforcement of the MBTA falls within the jurisdiction of California Dept of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) and both of these agencies have been well aware of this issue for weeks.
Both USFWS and CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife have not taken action, and refuse to hold CalTrans responsible for these bird deaths. Both agencies refuse to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and mandate that CalTrans take down the death traps so that the killing of these beneficial birds could finally come to an end.
In working to resolve this very public issue with my friend Veronica Bowers, who is the founder of Native Songbird Conservation and Care in Sebastopol, we have discovered that CalTrans answers to no one. They are unstoppable. They appear to be above both federal and state law.
My local Assembly member Marc Levine has been supportive and has tried to help. However, his office is powerless to force CalTrans to obey the law. At a meeting held last week between CalTrans, aides from Marc Levine's office and the attorney representing the Madrone Audubon Society, CalTrans refused to remove the netting and insisted the problem has been corrected. This strongly worded letter was sent from Marc Levine's office after what I was told was a very frustrating meeting.
CalTrans refuses to remove the netting and birds continue to get entangled and die a slow death every day. Native Songbird Care and Conservation volunteers estimate the numbers to be over 200.
Governor Brown, will you please intervene and mandate that CalTrans take down the bird netting?
A petition on Change.org currently has over 6,300 signatures from citizens within California and around the world. Madrone Audubon Society has retained legal counsel and sent a demand letter that the netting be removed. Animal Legal Defense Fund has sent a demand letter as well.
Governor Brown, will you please step in, enforce the laws being broken and stop the animal cruelty?
For the Swallows,