Scrub Jay Habitat behind Edgewater YMCA
The interim City manager, Mr. Barlow, has informed us that the City has
a new burn plan (copy requested along with latest biological survey)
with the intention of burning any Sunday now and that more days will be
added after baseball season finishes and school is out. A concern has
been raised about the possibility of burning the entire property, which
initially sounds like a good idea, considering that the scrub jay has
been extirpated from the habitat. However, since the habitat is
bordered by civilization on all sides, the threatened gopher tortoise,
indigo snake, etc, will not have anywhere to live and feed during the
time it will take for sufficient regrowth of food sources. And there is
the possibility that there are not enough gopher burrows for all the
animals that would usually seek shelter there to escape the fire.
Hopefully the burn plan addresses these concerns.
Mr. Barlow has offered to mediate a meeting between Mr. Corder,
Director of Parks and Leisure, and SEVAS, in regards to Mr.
Corder’s delays in responding to our inquiries about what
management is taking place in the habitat, if any. We look forward to
airing our grievances about the mis-management of the habitat under Mr.
Corder’s tenure, to where now the scrub jay has been extirpated.
In an e-mail to Mr. Barlow, we noted that the following items were
e-mailed to Mr. Corder February 26th without action being taken: some
topping of trees has occurred, but it is puzzling why they are topped
so high when scrub is ideally 6-8 feet high. Also we noted that some
pine trees and many Laurel Oak are in the habitat, both which are not
part of a scrub habitat; the former provides a perch for predation of
scrub jays and the latter produce a canopy over time if not removed. In
addition, there are small pine trees present that could easily be
removed by clippers, if removed now; best not to wait for a burn since
no telling when then will be. Not in the e-mail to Mr. Corder: Audubon
is glad that mowing has been stopped, hopefully for a long time, in the
habitat, to allow in-fill of the too wide areas prominent in the
habitat. Right now, gopher apple is appearing in great numbers–a
favorite food of the gopher tortoise–in a heavily mowed area. It
would be a shame to mow over and destroy this precious food source of
the gopher tortoise. Also, there is a lupine growing on a corner of one
of the burn cells. This has only appeared since the mowing has stopped.
We are concerned that when mowing, the maintenance personnel keep
mowing more and more into the habitat cells, destroying potential low
growth vegetative species, such as the lupine, that provide all sorts
of food and habitat for scrub dwellers. We look forward to Mr.
Barlow’s response to the above and the meeting with him and Mr.
Kathy is heading a group of volunteer members to survey the Scrub Jay
habitat behind the Edgewater YMCA for use as a field trip opportunity
for local schools. They identified and tagged trees and plants and
discussed best ways for presenting the information to elementary and
middle school students. This is a first step in what we hope will
become a valuable resource for schools in environmental education.
Perhaps the City of Edgewater will be encouraged to restore the scrub
jay habitat. If you are interested in helping, please contact Kathy.
County Environmental representative and Paula Sisson from the US
Fish and Wildlife have visited the habitat. Ms. Sisson’s opinion
is that the City of Edgewater, who is the caretaker of the property
and is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the habitat since
1998, is not in compliance and she was going to investigate what
had been done and not done in regards to monitoring and compliance
with the mitigation contract. Ms. Sisson said the habitat needed
a controlled burn due to overgrowth, particularly on the front side;
the back side was in better shape.
A copy of the biological survey completed November 1999 by biologist
Joe Young of Biological Consulting Services was obtained from Mr.
Corder. The survey found a family of 3-4 scrub jays on the ~ 8 acres
and advised mechanical removal of tall trees, which was done (?),
followed with a prescribed burn expected before nesting began in
Kathy Booth, Conservation Chair, and Co-Chairs, Gail and Richard
Domroski, met with Mr. Jack Corder, Director of Parks and Leisure
for the City of Edgewater and Mr. Young, both parties conceded that
the management plan has not been followed. No burn has ever taken
place. Captain Cousins from the Edgewater Fire Dept says they are
ready to do a burn as soon as the US Fish and Wildlife approves
it. According to Mr. Young, since 7+ years have past, the habitat
is in need of mechanical removal of tall trees again. He also said,
“This project will not be stalled again”. Ironically,
according to Mr. Corder, the City has budgeted for the maintenance
of this property every year since 1998.
Subsequent monitoring of the habitat by SEVAS begun almost weekly.
One lone banded male jay remaining of the family.
Per phone call with biologist, Mr. Young, he did see one scrub jay
yesterday since started survey in October 1st. He will have to redo
the map and burn cells since aerial views do not match original
mapping of where trails were to be placed. Will send survey report
to County and then start burn cycle beginning January or February.
Will re-survey after first burn at beginning of nesting season.
lone scrub jay last seen
Several SEVAS members met with Mr. Corder, Director City of Edgewater
Parks and Leisure Services again. In 30-45 days the City should
be able to remove trees since baseball season is over. Excuses again
as to why haven’t burned. Gil Miller described the concept
of an environmental learning center (or as Richard says, wildlife
refuge) with spots of interest identified on self guided map. Gil
said if birds get people to the Habitat, then people will see it
and want to preserve it. Community and schools will accept it. YMCA
could hold after school program.
County representative emphatic that County has NO enforcement authority
to make City of Edgewater honor mitigation contract.
Letter to City and biologist from Linda Walker, USFW, summarizing
neglect of habitat resulting in overgrowth from lack of fire; requesting
a copy of revised burn cell plan and recommending a prescribed burn
ASAP. No mention of penalties for failure to comply over the years
or recent delays.
E-mail from Mr. Corder, Director Parks and Leisure: playing phone
tag with biologist, Joe
Young. The USFW official has informed me that we need to continue
with our maintenance program for the area and would like us to provide
them with a revised burn plan. Trying to set up a meeting with biologist
and local fire officials, so we can move forward with this project.
On another note, city staff are being scheduled to start topping
some of the trees within the next couple of weeks.
Regular monitoring by SEVAS volunteers has noted no scrub jay, maybe
a dozen trees topped in only one section of the habitat, continual
over mowing so that the trails are wider than the areas of habitat,
and no prescribed burn. The County has declined to take over management
of the habitat.