Do not disturb: Oregon town cancels fireworks to spare sea birds

via Fox News

Do not disturb: Oregon town cancels fireworks to spare sea birdsfireworksthree.JPG

Town officials in Depoe Bay, Ore., have reportedly announced the cancellation of the annual pre-Independence Day fireworks show on July 3 following pressure from federal wildlife managers who said the noise disrupts sea birds in the area.

An Oregon town has reportedly canceled its annual fireworks show out of concern the Fourth of July pyrotechnics will scare sea birds roosting nearby.

Town officials in Depoe Bay have announced the cancellation of the annual pre-Independence Day fireworks show on July 3 following pressure from federal wildlife managers who said the noise disrupts sea birds in the area, the Oregonian reports.

The move has irked local business owners who count on the popular show to bring foot traffic.

“It’s a great loss to our community,” Peggy Leoni, co-owner of Trollers Lodge, a small motel in Depoe Bay, told the newspaper.

Rebecca Chuck, deputy project leader with the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said the move was necessary to protect species such as the Brandt’s cormorant that nest at Pirates Cove.

The cove is less than a mile south of Boiler Bay, where the fireworks show is held, and seabird colonies on the north coast face intensifying pressure from bald eagles and other predators. The event at Boiler Bay has been a tradition since 1993.

Phil Taunton, one of the original organizers, said July 3 was chosen as the date to avoid competition with better-funded fireworks shows on the Fourth. The location was an easy shuttle ride just north of town.

The shows ran smoothly for two decades.

Then, in 2010, a Depoe Bay resident contacted the federal wildlife service and reported seeing seabirds nesting at Pirates Cove take flight during the fireworks.

The federal agency asked the city to consider moving the fireworks to Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area, a little farther north. But organizers responded that moving the show farther away was not an option.

Seeking more tangible proof of disturbance, Taunton and other Depoe Bay leaders asked the fish and wildlife service to conduct a study at the site.

Federal officials agreed. So, as organizers prepared for last year’s fireworks show, fish and wildlife officials positioned themselves in Pirates Cove.

Chuck, the federal wildlife manager, said staffers used aerial photography, video footage and the naked eye to see how seabirds at the cove reacted to the boom of the fireworks. The study showed the nearby explosions had an impact. Seabirds were frightened away from nests by the noise, and returned to find that eggs had been damaged or eaten by predators, she said.

“We did document disturbance, including nests that were lost,” Chuck said.

City officials put up a fierce resistance to the study’s conclusions, questioning its methodology.

But because the location where the fireworks are launched is on state park land, state officials were warned they could be liable for violating the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to harm or kill protected bird species.

When Oregon Parks and Recreation decided not to issue a permit for the event this year, the city had no choice but to cancel.

Local business owners, facing the reality that this year’s show won’t go on, have spent the last two weeks coming up with other ways to draw tourists into town. Sidewalk sales, special menus, demonstrations, music and a special drawing with more than $1,000 in gift cards are all on the schedule for Tuesday.

“There’s still a lot happening in Depoe Bay,” said Carol Barkhurst, manager of the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce.

But Taunton, who is president of the business group, acknowledged sidewalk sales won’t fully replace the draw of the fireworks show.

“It’s apples and oranges,” Taunton said.

Leoni, the motel owner, said her business has already suffered.

Her small motel has been fully booked every Fourth of July week since it opened more than a decade ago, she said. This year, as of Monday morning, Trollers Lodge stillhad rooms available through Thursday.

A guest who regularly books six rooms at the lodge the week of Independence Day decided not to come, citing the fireworks show cancellation, Leoni said.

Chuck, the federal wildlife manager, said she and her staff did not make the recommendation about the fireworks lightly.

“We all live in these little communities and we know events that bring cash and tourists in are extremely important,” Chuck said. “So this matters to us.

“It was not an easy thing to hand out by any means.”

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