Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Florida Town Will Pay Residents to Help Burrowing Owls Find a Home

Animals
Florida Town Will Pay Residents to Help Burrowing Owls Find a Home
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.


The city council's resolution earmarks $5,000 a year to create a home for the struggling birds. That doesn't mean that residents can just take a shovel and dig out a piece of their yard. The starter burrow has to be created by wildlife crews from the Audubon of the Western Everglades, according to the City Council.

The Audubon of the Western Everglades has to build the burrow since they understand best what appeals to the finicky birds. The burrows cannot be too close to a tree nor to a house, nor can they nick a pipe accidentally, as CNN reported.

Alli Smith, a biologist with Audubon of the Western Everglades, a conservation group said that there are about 500 burrowing owls that live on Marco Island, but they are increasingly rare in the rest of the state, as CNN reported. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission designated the burrowing owl as "state-threatened" in 2017.

"Marco Island is the first in the state to enact a program designed to expand the habitat of a threatened species (while) rewarding citizens who wish to participate voluntarily," said Jared Grifoni, Marco Island's City Council vice-chair, in an email to the Marco Eagle. "We will be an example of positive and cooperative action to the entire state."

Griffoni added that he expects the program to start next week. "The goal was to have everything in place by the start of nesting season," Grifoni wrote to the Marco Eagle. Nesting season for the burrowing owl starts in February and ends in July.

Alli Smith told CNN that the small owls usually live in the grasslands of central Florida that have disappeared thanks to development and commercial farming. Consequently, the owls have moved to more urban spaces, like the empty lots in Marco Island.

Marco Island and Cape Coral, about 45 miles north of Marco Island, host the two largest burrowing owl populations. The burrowing owl is the official bird of Cape Coral.

Last week, activists and residents demonstrated against a new development called Sands Park on Pine Island, off the coast of Cape Coral, which they claim will threaten the burrowing the owls there.

"We're here to save this park from being developed in a way that will affect wildlife. We have four active nests and some other ones we want to save, and they put a jogging path there that will collapse those burrows," said activist Carl Veaux, as the Pine Island Eagle reported. "We've talked to the city council on this and will talk with them again."

"This is a time when starter burrows should be in full force in parks and government entities, in our front yards and in our schools," said Pascha Donaldson, vice president of Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, as the Pine Island Eagle reported. "We shouldn't be collapsing burrows. Our builders do enough of that."

"We need to learn to live in harmony with our wildlife friends, not to destroy them," Donaldson said.

In Marco Island, nearly 95 percent of the burrowing owls live in vacant lots. Owners who want to build on the empty lots are able to remove the burrows after obtaining a permit, ruining some of the few burrows that are left in Florida, as CNN reported.

"We're just trying to give them some extra places to live," said Smith to CNN.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less