Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hope for the Return of the Birds to Lake Martin

Does this really protect the rookery?

The pictures above shows one of The Nature Conservancy's defenses against human intrusion into the rookery at Lake Martin. I support The Nature Conservancy's policy of defending the environment and all species therein by buying and owning the land in order to control the use of said land for wildlife protection.

What I don't understand is why TNC uses the Texaco Hunting Club to oversee something like 6,000 acres of the Cypress Island Preserve by allowing that club to hunt the preserve and cannot cooperate with me a non consumer of wildlife, who was doing tours there for a number of years prior to the Conservancy acquiring the land where the rookery is.

For years I attempted to cooperate with TNC in protecting the birds from poachers by informing the enforcement authorities of poaching activities that I witnessed on my daily swamp tour forays into the rookery. I was never successful in my efforts to protect the birds or alligators from the poachers due to the logistics of enforcing laws in a wilderness area being such a great challenge and the fact that the poachers then lived on the side of the rookery and did not need to use the road or boat landing to enter or leave the crime scene.

As much as I would like to cooperate with The Nature Conservancy regarding all of the management policies at Lake Martin, I confess that I am against the application of herbicides to control plants, and the lowering of the water. Moreso, I am personally offended and against the placing of signage in this pristine wilderness area. These signs first went up about 10 years ago when only I, the duck hunters, and the poachers were in there and have served no other purpose but to spoil the natural beauty of Lake Martin. These signs have never stopped anyone from entering the rookery who was intent upon doing so. Furthermore, I am not aware of anyone getting a citation for entering the rookery by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who has been charged with upholding the laws designed to protect the birds who nest and roost there.

A few years back I was discussing my use of the rookery as a tour site with a member of The Lake Martin Advisiary Committe and informing them of my observations of the poaching of birds and alligators in the rookery. I attempted to justify my presence in the rookery as a tour guide by being an undercover informant of poaching activities.I explained how I observed birds in the nest one afternoon at sunset and the very next morning, nest after nest along my road was empty. Meaning, somebody in a boat followed my road through the rookery and took birds. I knew it was human consumption because predator birds, mammals, and reptiles would not use my road and would never take so many in one night. He asked if I had called the law enforcement agents to report the poaching and I said yes I had. And I added that as far as I knew nothing was being done to stop the poaching. The committee member then stated disbelief that nothing was being done by law enforcement to stop the poaching, if I had in fact called it in. Soon thereafter, I voluntarily stopped going into the rookery during the nesting season.

A year or two later in another discusion regarding a swamp tour guide who was crossing the boundary lined with the yellow signs and doing night tours in the rookery, the committee member expressed frustration with the lack of response by law enforcement to stop the tour guide who was in our opinion disturbing the birds by doing day-time and night-time tours in the rookery. I then reminded him of our previous discussion regarding the poaching issue and the lack of law enforcement and asked "Now you see how I felt when I called them about the poaching?"

In conclusion, I would like to propose that protecting the rookery from boats in the nesting season is not enough. If it is not safe to roost year round, in my opinion they will not nest there in the spring. And I would like to raise one last question. Should we also ban duck hunting in the rookery? I have a hard time believeing that as the birds are now beginning to build nests, we are allowing the hunting of ducks in the rookery. Furthermore, if we are allowing duck hunting in the rookery during nesting season, are the tour boats the biggest threat to the nesting birds?