Small but deadly to land developers.
Small but deadly to land developers.

As Ducks Die in OC, Are Gnatcatchers Next?

Readers of the Weekly before there was a Weekly may recall the California gnatcatcher, a cute little bird who managed to stop development in its tracks in Orange County in the early 1990s, cause Donald Bren to forever be saddled with a menacing Mr. Burns squint and, if memory serves, carve out future right-wing radio blabberer Hugh Hewitt's early career as a mouthpiece for Big Pavement.

Anyway, there's a move afoot to no longer protect via federal law the small songbird--that's the gnatcatcher, not Hewitt. Meanwhile, mallard ducks, who no one wants to protect unless it's from the fork across your table at Peking Pete's, are falling like, uh, dead ducks in Lake Forest.

Has the whole world taken crazy pills?

Pacific Legal Foundation, the Sacramento law group that opposes all that's pure and wholesome, has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to "delist" the gnatcatcher as a threatened subspecies. That's, of course, the same douchey law firm that successfully sued to remove the bald eagle from Endangered Species Act protections years ago.

OC's gnatcatcher habitat
OC's gnatcatcher habitat

States a Pacific Legal Foundation press release about the suit that you could imagine being read out loud by Rick Perry, protection of gnatcatcher's coastal sage scrub habitat under federal law is an example of "unjustified, job-killing regulations."

The protected habitat for the gnatcatcher currently stretches across 197,000 acres of land in six Southern California counties. The foundation's suit was filed on behalf of Riverside County landowners, a San Diego County homeowner who could not subdivide her land because of gnatcatcher protections and a coalition of labor, business and agriculture interests in Santa Barbara County.

(Sidebar: Has anything good ever come from a coalition of labor, business and agriculture interests? Just asking.)

What's not mentioned in the suit are estimates that the gnatcatchers, which only grow to 4 inches long, have lost 90 percent of their habitat to condos, hotels, TJ Maxxes and other stucco mounds. But Pacific Legal Foundation has an answer for that anyway, maintaining "new science" shows a healthy population of the California gnatcatcher's genetic relatives live in Mexico so there is no need to protect the silly little birds here in Alta Cali.

Do you suppose if they plowed your house into a California Pizza Kitchen on grounds that plenty of humans reside in TJ that you and Barbara Coe would finally see eye to stink eye?

Spare the bread.
Spare the bread.

As moves are afoot to kill off one species of bird, more than 30 mallard ducks have recently been found floating dead in Lake 1, Lake 2, Village Pond Park and the twinkling waters of Forest Gardens Mobile Home Park in Lake Forest.

Orange County Animal Care has picked up some dead birds, while sickly ones have been taken by residents to the nonprofit Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. Care center officials confirm that the ducks they have seen exhibit symptoms of botulism poisoning.

Some residents fear the ducks are dying because of people feeding them bread, despite signs warning folks against it. Besides creating pollution, overcrowding and poor nutrition, bread meals have been linked to a form of botulism. Hot weather and high amounts of algae in the water also contribute to the growth of botulism, so the mallards could be getting even higher, deadly doses.

Of course, that's what we get for manufacturing nature in planned communities. New science would dictate we pave over those damn dead mallard attractors. Surely there's plenty of live ones to make up for 'em south of the border.


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