Amy Roberts: Time to bee better
Last week I mentioned to a friend I had booked a trip to Honduras, because two islands off its coast are known habitats for whale sharks. In all my years of scuba diving, this giant gill-bearing animal has been elusive, and I’m hoping this trip produces the fish story I’ve been waiting for.
My friend offhandedly mentioned she’d seen a whale shark once before, in an aquarium while she was living in Japan.
“A fish the size of a school bus living in a tank?!” I responded incredulously. “That should be illegal.”
She sighed in agreement. “There are lots of things we shouldn’t have to tell people not to do.”
That conversation, or rather the takeaway from that conversation, is the impetus for this one.
We shouldn’t have to tell people not to use poison to manipulate nature and that doing so is dangerous and irresponsible. We shouldn’t have to explain the dire consequences of introducing chemicals into fragile ecosystems. We shouldn’t have to forego a day at the park with our children or worry about the health and safety of our pets while out for a walk. We shouldn’t have to, but obviously it bears repeating.
Last week while walking near Prospector Park, I noticed a man spraying chemicals across the grass. The liquid chemicals came from a tank that was attached to a vehicle with the city’s logo plastered across the sides. The same logo that is put on press releases and official statements declaring Park City’s commitment to the environment and pledges to combat climate change. Yet here was this man, employed by the city, spraying a chemical substance designed to kill dandelions and other weeds. He was spraying the lawn where kids and pets romp; next to a waterway where migratory birds like sandhill cranes and Canadian geese nest all summer, the same water source moose, deer, beavers and other wildlife depend on daily.
We shouldn’t have to tell city workers that dandelions are the first food source for birds, butterflies, bees and a host of other critters critical to our ecosystem. Spraying them with poison kills these creatures, a practice that has contributed to the collapse of bee colonies around the country. Which is kind of a big deal considering bees pollinate our own food. We shouldn’t have to explain the benefits of dandelions — that they naturally fertilize grass, help reduce erosion and aerate the earth. And we shouldn’t have to point out how rain and runoff works either.
We also shouldn’t have to tell HOAs not to set out bait traps filled with poison to control potgut populations. Last week, I counted nearly a dozen bait boxes lined along a rock wall near condos in Redstone. The boxes are presumably meant to poison large rodents. But this practice has a significant and heartbreaking impact well beyond a few groundhogs. Birds of prey like falcons, hawks, owls and eagles will also die from ingesting the poison that killed their meal. So will fox and other predators, possibly someone’s cat or dog. Rabbits, squirrels, small birds and snakes can easily enter these bait boxes and suffer an unintentional horrific death as well.
This practice is not only cruel and unnecessary, it is also outlawed because it can lead to the death of protected migratory birds. And given this area is adjacent to the Swaner Nature Preserve, a protected wetland and wildlife refuge, well, setting out poison just seems like something we shouldn’t have to tell people not to do.
Coincidentally, the Swaner EcoCenter offers several upcoming events designed to help our environment thrive, naturally. You can volunteer to pull weeds, educate yourself about local watersheds or learn about the benefits of birds, bees and other pollinators.
We shouldn’t have to tell people not to be reckless, indifferent and unfathomably apathetic to the suffering we perpetrate on other beings.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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“I fully expect to see a caravan of Range Rovers leaving town, with mattresses and Peloton cycles tied to the roofs as the new arrivals decide that life in this dust bowl is intolerable,” writes Tom Clyde.