A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Birds and Babies

Yesterday's Journal Sentinel had a good-sized story about how the demolition of an abandoned grain elevator had been halted by the discovery of a red-tailed hawk's nest within the building. It seems, at first blush, like a feel good tale of man pausing to acknowledge his feathered friends, and I'm all for accomodating nature when and where possible. Certainly many beautiful things have been lost in man's rush to build, build, build (or in this case, tear down in order to build something else).

The problem with this case is that the grain elevator is no longer stable-- workers did not notice the nest when demolition first began, and now the thing may have had it's structural integrity weakened enough that local officials fear strong winds (not at all uncommon in Wisconsin in the spring) could topple it. Right onto a busy road. Or a house or two.

Keep in mind the following-- the red-tailed hawk is not an endangered species, and the DNR agrees that if the building is taken down, the hawks will simply build a new nest somewhere else. The only problem is that there might be eggs or chicks in the nest. They would obviously not be okay if the building is knocked down.

Well, okay, that would be unfortunate-- but do we really want to risk human property and even life and limb for eggs or chicks that might not even exist? Personally, I vote no. Unfortunately, it's not up for a vote, or even a common sense executive decision.

As a migratory bird, the red-tailed hawk is protected by federal law. The village literally can't tear the building down until they get the OK from the feds-- even though a healthy storm front might bring the building crashing down. Which, I suspect, would also be bad for the eggs/chicks that may or may not be there (the village has video that appears to show that the nest is empty-- but the feds can't take their word for it. They have to see the video themselves. Ye gods).

So. To sum up-- the Village of West Milwaukee has already spent many hours and lots of money on these eggs (which don't actually appear to be there). The safety and welfare of the people driving on Miller Park Way and living nearby have been put at risk. All for the eggs or chicks of a pair of birds that isn't endangered and which the DNR agress will be able to build a new nest somewhere else without any difficulty.


One final question: Why is it that a bird's egg-- which will eventually become a baby bird-- is protected by federal law to the point of endangering other people with no regard to the cost, but a fetus-- which will eventually become a baby-- is almost completely unprotected by the law and subject to the decision of a single individual?


That's an interesting way to frame a pro-life argument...
It really isn't meant so much as a pro-life argument as an example of legislation gone way wrong. And also an illustration of what I see as our often whacked out societal value systems.

No matter what your position on abortion, I doubt there are many people who would claim that a hawk egg is more important than a human fetus. Yet society protects the former far more vigorously than the latter. Odd, no?

For the record, I would personally like abortion to be illegal after the first trimester. I would love to see all the time, money, and effort being used up by both sides of the issue directed towards improving our adoption system, making contraception more readily available, and encouraging couples (particularly the men) to actively participate in raising their children.

Oh-- and I would also very much like legislation regarding what is and isn't acceptable to society to be determined at the state level rather than dictated to us by the judiciary at the national level. Let South Dakotans outlaw abortion if the public in that state collectively agrees with that position. Let Massachusettians continue to allow everything up to and including partial birth abortions if that is what they determine is appropriate for their state.
Well, I wasn't claiming it was a poor way to frame a pro-life argument. It does seem to put things in perspective - it just caught me by surprise, that's all. :)
Except in the Hawk egg case the Hawk mother isn't the one destroying the egg.... I do believe..correct me if I'm wrong .. but if someone besides the Mother/parents forces the Mother/parents to abort their fetus against their will that just might..maybe??? be illegal??? becuase that would be the proper anaolgy when comparing abortion to the protection of the Hawk eggs. If the Mother Hawk pushes the eggs out of the nest breaking them because she is not yet ready to be mommy Hawk I don't think our court system would pursue it..but you never know........
An excellent point, Rodney. As I mentioned, it's not so much a pro-life argument as an anti-stupid legislation argument. Because in the case of the hawk, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the law, as written, cared a whole lot more about the bird than about the people.
Greetings from who-know-where-is-it Zagreb, Croatia!
Just thought you might like to see hawk's nest built at my balcony at 20th floor three years ago. Two squadrons of hawks have been born there on my balcony this so called 'wild birds' chosed for their home.
Obviously, there is no Empty Nest Sindrome here!

(Unfortunately, only in Croatian language so far).
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