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1048Galileo reporting

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  • Andrew Howe
    Oct 1, 2004
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      There are several points I would like to make about
      the posting of rare birds at Galileo Hills. As recent
      emails have suggested, this discussion represents an
      important issue locally, with perhaps some larger
      issues at stake, including how respect for private
      property is weighed against a responsibility to report
      to the public domain. I would like, specifically, to
      address a comment in Steve Sosensky�s post, where a
      conversation with a past manager was quoted: �he
      [manager] would love to have more birders there during
      the week�staying in the hotel and eating in the
      restaurant.�

      Recently, I did meet a couple who were spending the
      week at Galileo; obviously, Silver Saddle was
      benefiting economically from this arrangement.
      However, I fear that the recent growth in Galileo
      birder numbers lies almost solely with the �weekend
      birder.� The vast majority of money made by the
      Silver Saddle comes from the land/time-share
      agreements they have with their customers, the very
      customers who have occasionally, when a rare bird has
      shown up on the weekend, had to compete with throngs
      of birders for the facility�s resources. Many forget
      that exactly ten years ago last week, the group of
      birders clamoring to see the Louisiana Waterthrush was
      so large that continued birding at Galileo Hills by
      more than a few with special permission was actually
      in question. Due to unwise access practices, weekend
      birding privileges WERE lost at the nearby Mojave DWP
      in the late 90s. I still carry guilt from being one
      of the birders whose weekend access contributed to
      this loss due to the fact that we had �permission�
      from only SOME of the workers. Finally, although
      birding permits are still issued for Edward�s Air
      Force Base, the glut of birders who have obtained
      permits only to visit a few times a year threaten
      those of us who bird there frequently and, as
      requested by base biologists, census the shorebirds
      and submit an annual report of migrant numbers.

      I know that the impulse to publish these sightings in
      a public forum stems from the generous and noble
      desire for egalitarian disclosure; however, I find it
      strange that such matters often seem to be adjudicated
      by birders who rarely set foot in the county.
      Instead, I believe that those who bird these areas on
      a frequent basis and who understand the larger and
      ever-changing context should be the ones who decide
      the best course of action. It should be those with
      CURRENT information and experience who contact the
      Silver Saddle management regarding crowd control if,
      for instance, a mega-rarity appears over the weekend.
      Obviously, a happy medium must be established
      somewhere between total secrecy (an elitist approach)
      and urging people to flock to Galileo and report
      everything they see (running the risk of undue
      pressure). For the past three years, I have emailed
      my sightings to a group of birders whom I know bird
      Galileo frequently, and who all have a long-term
      investment in ensuring continued access to this
      private ranch. I continue to feel that this approach
      strikes a prudent compromise ensuring that word does
      get out, but in a manner that makes a return to the
      huge weekend mobs of the mid-90s unlikely.

      Over the years, the list of important birding
      locations that have been either severely limited or
      closed off forever due to increased birding pressure
      have included such places as Mojave DWP, Iron
      Mountain, Moonglow Dairy, the Salinas sewer ponds, and
      the Furnace Creek golf course. I shudder to think
      that some day Galileo Hills may be added to this list.

      Andrew Howe
      Riverside, CA
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