Saturday, March 22, 2008

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

From Associated Press:

Cattails Targeted for Sunflower Farmers
By JAMES MacPHERSON – Feb 28, 2008

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials will target entire parcels of cattail-choked wetlands in North Dakota this year to kill the preferred habitat of sunflower-scarfing blackbirds.

Some 60,000 acres of cattail marshes in North Dakota have been destroyed since 1991 to try to keep blackbirds at bay, said Phil Mastrangelo, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services agency.

Last year in North Dakota, about 4,500 acres of wetlands in 16 counties were treated, Mastrangelo said. This year there will be enough money to treat about 8,000 acres, he said.

A herbicide is applied from a helicopter, at a cost to the government of about $23 an acre, Mastrangelo said. The program targets only cattails on private land and is free to sunflower farmers. Last year, 43 of them got treatment.

In past years, about 70 percent of a cattail marsh was treated with a herbicide, but blackbirds were still able to nest, loaf and roost in the remaining fuzzy-topped weeds with reedlike leaves. "That 30 percent still gave some heartburn from the blackbirds," Mastrangelo said.

The USDA estimates blackbirds eat more than $10 million worth of sunflowers each year in North Dakota, which accounts for about half of the nation's sunflower production.

"Just getting rid of cattails is a real good tool to use," said Mike Clemens, a sunflower farmer from Wimbledon, in eastern North Dakota. "If you can get rid of them within two miles of a field, blackbirds will go somewhere else to find something else to chew on." Clemens, who has used the program for two years, said eradicating all the cattails in an area is important. "If you leave 10 percent of cattails, it's still just enough to attract birds who will still want to hang around," he said.

Some 70 million blackbirds come through the Northern Plains each year, including about 6 million that stop in North Dakota, biologists say. Each blackbird can eat about an ounce of sunflower seeds daily.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the Bismarck-based National Sunflower Association, said cattail eradication has been effective in controlling blackbirds. He said the loss of habitat makes the blackbirds more vulnerable to predators during nesting.

Cattails cover some 600,000 acres of wetlands in North Dakota. Mastrangelo said wetlands treated with the herbicide are typically free of cattails for about five years.

Dump herbicide on wetlands? That is a typical government move, isn’t it? I wonder what it does to frogs, salamanders, butterflies and bats.
“Frogs have been found to be very sensitive to some herbicide products and in particular to the surfactants, or wetting agents used to improve the effectiveness of the chemicals (Bidwell & Gorrie 1995).”
We wonder what it is that is reducing our songbirds and bees and amphibians; perhaps this is much like the canary and the miners…and a good solid indicator that we use to much poison.

And what about erosion control, or mosquitoes getting easier access to still water and fewer birds eating them? Will we then have to spray insecticide? When will we stop the madness? I am no real fan of blackbirds, but I am just so over this kind of ridiculous thinking…or am I just flashing my tree-hugging, left-wing, liberal nature?

Thank you, Birdchick…for bringing the article to the light; it never ceases to amaze me what people will do in the name of easier money. I hope the people in North Dakota are able to do something about this before they reap the poisonous results along with their larger batches of seed. I just wish people would think before they come up with knee-jerk solutions like this. Am I being silly to be so outraged?

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