I can’t seem to have it both ways. It’s simply a matter of fact that I have been left with choosing between partially undeveloped land that is on the road to becoming a neighborhood blight and a housing tract that will force the mitigation of a California species of special concern. And when I say choosing I absolutely have no control over the outcome, but is actually limited to a personal thought on what I would ultimately like to see happen with this property.
Firstly, a few years back just prior to the housing bubble explosion, the land in question was prepped for future housing through the installation of paved roads, sidewalks, street lights, and all the usual things needed to feed a house with water and electricity. But, before all of the land had been transformed into a functioning neighborhood, the builder ceased development for all the reasons dominating the news over the last year or so.
For me, all was well and good because over time wildlife returned to this partially undeveloped fenced acreage that was now a suitable place to observe local wildlife in action. Coyotes, rabbits, burrowing owls, ground squirrels, hawks, kestrels, and the list goes on, it was actually a beacon in a rather dreary economic mess as it afforded me a personal wildlife refuge in walking distance from my home.And for just about 2 years now my private refuge was secure, that is until the chain link fence was removed due to a transfer in ownership from one developer to another. The once protected habitat was now open to the public and the burrowing owls that stood watch in the middle of the streets were now dodging cars, off-roading vehicles and curious dogs.
As time is moving forward, apparently this paved unmanned land is now attracting all sorts of illicit activities and upsetting a population of at least 5 pairs of nesting burrowing owls. Formerly protected from traffic, many of the burrows are now directly in harm’s way as they are adjacent to the street in a patch of dirt separating the blacktop from the sidewalk. And yes the situation is ruffling my feathers.
Illegal dumping, graffiti, alcohol, sex, fireworks, street racing, off-roading and all the other usual suspects are infiltrating this area because of its remoteness and protection from prying eyes. The word is obviously getting out that the partially functioning streetlights provide the perfect opportunity to conduct oneself inappropriately under the shadows of the night in an otherwise new and clean neighborhood. Not to mention, since the removal of the surrounding fence the wildlife activity has been on a sharp decline, except for the burrowing owls that are in the midst of rearing young.
And as I posed in the beginning, I am left with wondering what I would rather have: More housing and no burrowing owls, or a pseudo burrowing owl habitat that is in the beginning stages of being plagued by those who do not care about the aesthetics of their city let alone the wildlife.
With a few additional letters in the ready for the city, police department, project manager, and California Department of Fish and Game, perhaps I can get more action to protect the people and owls alike.
I’ll continue to provide updates as well as my latest observations on the owls. In fact, just this weekend I came across 4 additional owls that I had not previously observed.
For my other post concerning a different group of burrowing owls, check out Burrowing Owls and Manifest Destiny.