Stop Killing Swallows! Bird-Lovers Demand

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – CalTrans and the federal government killed more than 100 federally protected cliff swallows in a brainless and illegally conducted highway project, bird-lovers claim in Federal Court.
     The state and federal transportation put netting on overpasses in Sonoma County to “deter” federally protected cliff swallows from nesting while workers widened Highway 101, then refused to remedy the situation even after the bird-lovers complained of the “massive cliff swallow trapping and slaughter,” according to the complaint.
     Native Songbird Care and Conservation et al. claims that in the past month their members have “observed over 100 dead cliff swallows hanging in the netting, and have seen many cliff swallows trapped between the netting and the bridges structures.”
     The netting was installed on the Petaluma River and Lakeville Overpass bridges in Sonoma County, for the Highway 101 widening project in the Marin-Sonoma Narrows
     Cliff swallows migrate 6,000 miles from South America to bridges over and near the Petaluma River every spring. The swallows build around 500 nests under the Petaluma River and Lakeville Overpass bridges, so around 1,000 mature birds live underneath the bridges. Or used to.
     The director of Native Songbird Care claims she saw dead and trapped birds in the netting on many occasions. On one say alone, she found “17 cliff swallows and one barn swallow hanging dead in the netting, with two cliff swallows still alive and trapped. Three crows circled the netting and lunged at it, attempting to pluck the dead birds away.”
     The environmentalists claim the defendants approved an inadequate environmental impact statement, and “bypass[ed] supplemental environmental review when confronted with the discovery of significant new circumstances and information that the netting causes massive cliff swallow trapping and slaughter.”
     Named as defendants are U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, Federal Highway Administration administrator Victor Mendez, California Department of Transportation director Malcolm Dougherty.
     The groups seek emergency injunctive relief to enjoin the use of the netting on the bridges.
     They are represented by Daniel Lutz with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Cotati, Calif.
     Plaintiffs include Native Songbird director Veronica Bowers, the Madrone Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Marin Audubon Society, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society.

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