Friday, May 11, 2007

Bobolinks and Power Grid Links

Last week while walking in the low density edges of town I see a dark weasel with a small yellow bird in its mouth, bounding across the large rocks lining a gully. Animated with the success of the hunt it races back and disappears down a burrow beneath a bridge. The next day I see a pair of Canadian Geese with their small brood of chicks floating in the retention pond and it dawns upon me the tiny predator is doing its small part in keeping Wisconsin’s expansive flocks in check.

It is dangerous to project human motivations on animal activity but I’m quite sure the weasel was completely devoid of concerns that the rocks, having been placed there by humans somehow made his chosen environment unnatural. I am also confident the last thoughts of the baby bird were not ruminations about how its tragic death was exactly like so many other chicks in the ancestral lines back to the pristine wilderness before Columbus unleashed the Europeans. There are no living creatures with fond memories of the way it used to be back in 1491 A.D.

WKOW runs an update on a small confrontation between environmentalist and development concerns. In the ongoing effort to upgrade our power system, American Transmission Company (ATC) wants to build an improved power line between the Jefferson substation on Highway 89 through Lake Mills to the Stoney Brook substation south of Waterloo. ATC asked to build the line along the existing Highway 89 electric corridor (Map) but the Public Service Commission instead directed them to break new easements through residential back roads.

Power Line Project Turns on Leopold's Legacy: . "It's very clear in my mind, and to the many of the locals here, this (highway 89) is the obvious choice. You put it down an established corridor, not down unestablished township roadways." "I think politics got its ugly hand in this decision," Dandoy told 27 News. "What happened here was Madison happened here."

More accurately, the Madison environmentalist mindset happened here. The Madison Audubon Society is doing a restoration project on lands on one side of Highway 89. Concerned about enlargement of the existing electric lines they astutely lobbied the Public Service Commission to change ATC’s preferred route. Now they are now attempting to keep a challenge to this ruling within the Dane County Courts.

Faville Grove Sanctuary: This restoration of a wet-prairie remnant is part of an extensive ongoing restoration effort of Jefferson County’s Crawfish Prairie conducted by the Madison Audubon Society (MAS). To date, MAS has acquired 265 acres in this project area and has worked to restore the hydrology and plant communities of more than half of those acres.

STTOP: The Madison Audubon Society has filed their own appeal in Dane County. There is very little doubt that this was a strategic move to control the venue, since the first judge to receive a petition in this kind of case gets to decide where the hearing will be. A Dane County Circuit Court Judge will decide whether this case will be moved to Jefferson County or remain in Dane County for all parties filing petitions. We believe that we have a strong argument, for obvious reasons, why the hearing should be held in Jefferson County.

Audubon Society attorney Dave Bender actually gets to the heart of the matter when he tells Channel 27: "Eighty to one hundred foot transmission line towers would have a negative aesthetic impact on the Faville Grove Sanctuary.” Nature does not have a concept of how it should exist and the Bobolinks, Dickcissels, and Eastern Meadowlarks are not concerned about aesthetics. This legal and political skirmish is about privileged residents of Madison wanting to do more than preserve land for the birds. This is about elites wanting to create a work of landscape art called pristine nature.