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BIRDERS BLOG

a blog by and for Utah Birders

AIC Buffer Zone Update

posted by Utah Birders at
on Monday, December 12, 2011 

Forster's Tern flying across the Antelope Island Causeway

We want to start out by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has chimed in with an opinion/information on the matter of the Antelope Island Causeway proposed “buffer zone”. It is clear that there is a wellspring of interest in the uses of the Causeway and a lot of passion for figuring out what should be the “right” answer on this discussion.

There seems to have been some lack of clarity about our proposed buffer zone as well as our stance on hunters and hunting. We’d like to take this opportunity to try to clear some of this up.
Unequivocally, we support hunters and hunting. There is much overlap in our goals and ideals and we 100% respect the rights of hunters and their right to the enjoyment of hunting. We can’t be clear enough that we mean no disrespect to hunters and consider your contributions to conservation an integral part of the big picture when it comes to keeping our state filled with wilderness. Thank you for all that you do!


Sunset from the Antelope Island Causeway

It has definitely been clear that there is a great deal of confusion about what exactly the existing regulation is in terms of what can and can’t be done from a hunting standpoint along the causeway. We have verified that the causeway is NOT considered part of the Antelope Island State Park and therefore is not subject to the rules that apply to state parks. While many seemed to have assumed it was, there is no rule stating as such (that we’ve been able to identify) and therefore hunting has occurred and can continue from a close distance to the causeway road with no violation. This is what prompted our initial concern for a number of reasons which are summarized below.

We can all agree that the Antelope Island causeway is a heavily used area. Being one of the more heavily trafficked state parks in Northern Utah there are constantly cars and people moving up and down its 6 miles of pavement. This can raise some safety concerns when it comes to the close proximity of hunting activity. We have no doubt that hunters are very very careful but why take chances in such a heavily populated area?

Secondly, a large number of the people that visit Antelope Island State Park are from out of state - both domestic and international tourists - many who come just for bird watching. The close proximity of hunting activity along the causeway could serve as a potential deterrent to the birds and subsequently tourism. I think we’d all like to see a continued influx of people visiting our state and state parks because of what it does for the local economies.

Finally, this area right along the causeway really is a critical bird habitat and has in the past been used by so many birds passing through our state. If you ask any birder where the best place to view wintering ducks in the past several years you’d almost unanimously hear “Antelope Island Causeway”. Due to the way currents move under the bridges, these specific areas are packed with nutrients and stay predominantly unfrozen during the cold winter months. This lends itself to being a haven for the birds. As hunting activities have increased in this area, it has become less and less available for the birds for any length of time.

Red-necked Phalarope feeding along the Causeway

When looking at all of the above stated reasons, we conclude that it would be a wise move to extend the protections that exist for Antelope Island State Park to the 6 mile causeway as well. We feel this is a win/win solution and one that hunters and birders can come together on and agree is the right thing to do.

We are actively working on reaching all the right people/agencies to address the topic so that we can have an informed and reasonable discussion. We are well on our way and will definitely keep everyone updated on our progress.

Thank you for considering what we have to say. Feel free to leave any comments or questions and we will get back to you. In addition to the comment section below, you can contact us direct at utah.birders@gmail.com

Sincerely,
The Utah Birders
Jeff Bilsky, Tim Avery, Carl Ingwell

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3 Comments:
Blogger Oliver Hansen said...

Well stated.

December 12, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Kathy Tatum said...

I totally agree, and thank you for summarizing the key points. Given that the causeway is an integral part of the State Park, at least by experience if not governmental jurisdiction, it only makes sense to afford the same protections to it as the Island itself. Afterall, the gate is at the beginning of the park causeway, not the end. I expect that many of the annual passes for the causeway portion are purchased by birders and photographers. I wonder if any data is kept on that by the managing staff. Thanks for reinforcing that this is not anti-hunting, just sensible for such a high traffic area (both birds and people).

Kathy Tatum

December 13, 2011 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Casey Day said...

If the causeway is not technically part of the park, why do they make you pay the park fee to visit it? Seems natural to just include it with the rest of the park.

December 13, 2011 at 7:22 PM  

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