Friday, April 3, 2015

Caltrans Buffers Birds

Red-Tailed Hawk seen devouring its prey atop an utility pole in Echo Park near SR-2. Picture taken by a Caltrans biologist.  
The Glendale Freeway (SR-2) Terminus Soundwall Project is underway in Echo Park, a neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles. Obviously, this project will benefit the residents that live alongside of the freeway, but Caltrans is also looking out for the residents of the trees in the area, too – the birds.

How so? Caltrans complies with the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, as well as the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act, which require the department to take proactive steps to protect our feathered friends. So, before beginning a freeway construction project, Caltrans biologists perform pre-construction surveys in the project area to identify any active nests. This is particularly important during bird nesting season, February 1 to September 1. If biologists find an active nest, a “no work” buffer zone of up to 500 feet in radius (depending on the bird species) is created to avoid impacting the nesting birds during construction.

House Wren on a post along SR-39 (San Gabriel Cyn. Rd.)

Why is the buffer zone needed? Loud noises – and there’s often a LOT of loud noises on construction sites — may result in nest abandonment. In other words, the parent birds could leave the nest and never return, abandoning the hatchlings. That’s bad parenting even by Hollywood standards. Environmental stewardship is an important part of what we do at Caltrans. For that reason (and because birds are amazing and beautiful creatures), we will continue to support strong bird families and healthy hatchlings, requiring the dozers to stand down during nesting season.