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Carpenter ‘critical’ to rights of sound-dependent birds

April Baisan

The rezoning of 1050 Lebanon Road in Cortez from commercial to industrial is incompatible with its proximity to Carpenter Natural Area (City Code Criteria D violation). This change would increase ambient noise and airborne contaminants (some invisible and odorless) affecting this area. Knowingly degrading a place that was set up by far-thinking citizens of Cortez as a haven for nature and people is unthinkable.

There is a legal concept called the Rights of Nature. Simply the rights of animals and plants to exist, it is law in 39 countries, including the U.S., where 12 municipalities and tribes have laws on the books, notably Lafayette.

Rights of Nature is based on the United Nations’ Declaration of 1948 for human rights, which stem from the fact that we exist. This logic applies to the natural world: It exists, so it has rights.

Although Rights of Nature hasn’t yet been codified in Cortez, in Carpenter Natural Area, logic tells us that all living beings have rights, such as to reasonable quiet in order to find food, communicate with young or a mate, hear predators approaching, etc.

Keeping this in mind, let’s remember that Independent Log Co. said that noise won’t be a problem and it wouldn’t work within business hours. Yet on Friday, Aug.18, at 8:15 p.m., I was hiking west on the mesa top at Carpenter, getting close to the edge where I would descend to the parking lot. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a machine. At that point, I couldn’t see below the mesa to the ILC property immediately below.

However, across Lebanon Road, in the Quonset hut on the ILC property there, the door was open and the whine of a saw blasted. When I drove by, I could see a machine that looked and sounded like a saw with lumber run through it by two men.

Thirty minutes later, they were still at it.

My points follow: 1) I heard that noise without being in direct line of sight to its source, nearly 1,000 feet away. 2) It ruined my peaceful time at Carpenter. 3) If that ILC machine was that loud twice as far away from the mesa top as a machine in the middle of the 1050 Lebanon property, then sawmills and other machines on the property (perhaps two or more simultaneously, amplifying the sound) would clearly be louder to a person at Carpenter. 4) Most importantly, these sounds on the property would be louder, also, to birds nesting in the adjacent willows, who might have chosen that spot because there was nowhere else to go. (Habitat loss and degradation are primary reasons for a dramatic loss of birds since 1970. Bird numbers in the U.S. and Canada have decreased by a staggering 30%).

Indeed, a University of Colorado Boulder study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018, showed that three songbird species, common in our area, when exposed to constant industrial noise, had young of lower weight and fewer young, among other negative findings. Many other studies have concluded the same for other species in other places.

Throughout the nesting season this year, I recorded the songs of various bird species in Carpenter’s willows, next to ILC. If ILC is allowed to use noisy machines, sound-dependent birds will have their rights infringed upon, in a place set up partly for them. Maybe that year’s young will die, parent birds will die of stress and disease, and Carpenter will have its silent spring.

The peaceful existence of our unique park – Carpenter – is critical to the rights/survival of nature in it. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, please, keep the ILC property as “commercial” with no conditional use permit.

April Baisan is a former science educator, grandmother and watcher of birds in Cortez.