While working on my series about the rookery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, I’ve grown quite enamored of the place. I’ve also grown concerned for its welfare. Not to say I think UT will pull a Carrollton and bulldoze it in the middle of the night while nesting birds lie sleeping with their chicks…
But I do think it needs official protection, official recognition. More of my reasoning will become clear as I get the final two pieces of the rookery series completed and posted. Before then, however, here’s some information I just posted on the Audubon Dallas forums.
I’m cross-posting it here for the same reason I posted it there.
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I’m bringing back this thread from the past to ask for your collective help.
The UTSWMC rookery, although not in imminent danger, needs official recognition and protection to ensure it remains a safe haven for the thousands of birds who nest there annually. Because the UTSWMC answers to the UT System’s Board of Regents and the Board of Regents answers to the state legislature, it’s time to push both to acknowledge and safeguard the rookery.
So here’s how you can help.
(1) Send an e-mail to the Board of Regents. Here are the e-mail addresses to send to:
email@example.com (for the whole Board)
firstname.lastname@example.org (for UT System feedback)
email@example.com (for Vice Chancellor Tonya Moten Brown who’s in charge of facilities management)
firstname.lastname@example.org (for Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa who’s the UT System CEO)
(2) If you live in Texas, contact your state senators and representatives. Go to Who Represents Me? to find out who they are and to access contact pages for them (some don’t have contact pages, so you might have to write a real letter).
(3) Whether or not you live in Texas, contact the following people.
Senator Judith Zaffirini, Chair of the Higher Education Committee (to whom the Board of Regents answers): Contact form
Representative Allan Ritter, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee: Contact form
Representative Dennis Bonnen, Chair of the Land & Resource Management Committee: Contact form
Finally, here’s a copy of the e-mail I sent. You’re welcome to copy it verbatim, modify it to fit your personal taste, use it for ideas, or ignore it entirely.
Chancellors Cigarroa and Brown, and other concerned parties:
It behooves me to write on behalf of the colonial-nesting wading birds and other avian inhabitants of the Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center campus in North Texas.
As you no doubt already know, habitat loss has reduced native nesting areas in Texas to a fraction of what they once were for species such as the great egret, black-crowned night-heron, cattle egret, little blue heron, tricolored heron, white ibis and snowy egret. In addition to a lack of available space, recent scientific studies clearly show climate change is forcing coastal species such as these to move further north; a 2007 study from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University showed ongoing drought and higher temperatures in Texas had already begun, and in response the Gulf ecosystem can no longer support the diversity of life it once did.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas has officially hosted a thriving rookery (nesting area for many species) for at least half a century, the space playing host to thousands of nests and many thousands of birds–all within a 3.5 acre motte. Circumstantial and anecdotal evidence indicate the nesting area has been used for almost three-quarters of a century. More than 70 bird species were identified during the most recent census of inhabitants.
While the UT Southwestern administration has maintained the rookery in response to a promise made to Dr. Charles Sprague with regards to protecting and respecting the site, it seems prudent now to officially acknowledge this urban marvel and act to protect it so long as the birds choose to nest there.
I am writing to ask for your support in declaring the UT Southwestern Medical Center rookery a protected nature sanctuary, including the Memorial Garden. As such, it should receive official recognition as a safe harbor for the multitude of birds who utilize it, and it should be safeguarded for future generations of people and birds alike. Under the guise of the UT System’s “special responsibility” to manage the land responsibly, ensuring the safety of the rookery falls well within that mandate.
This same proposal is being presented to the Legislature of the State of Texas as means to protect our natural heritage and the increasingly limited habitat available for native fauna, especially in light of our rapidly and dramatically changing environment.
Thank you in advance for your attention and consideration.
Jason M Hogle
Please, take a few minutes to speak out on this issue to the people who can protect it. And contrary to my normal copyright, feel free to share this information where and when you think it appropriate—even if that means copying it to other outlets.