Earlier this month, Lakewood resident Bob Warfield wrote to spotlight the tale of a red-tailed hawk’s nest located on the Lakewood Wal-Mart site. I forwarded his letter to Candice Bock, Lakewood Government Relations Director for comment.
The resulting story disappointed Mr. Warfield greatly. He takes exception with Ms. Bock’s comments. So, I’m going to run Mr. Warfield’s letter as written followed by Ms. Bock’s response and wrap up with Mr. Warfield’s follow-up letter. (Warning: This is a lengthy piece).
The last thing I will let The Sub Times become is an all Wal-Mart newspaper, but I am interested to hear what you think. Read, enjoy and drop me a note.
Original, unedited letter from Mr. Bob Warfield
After months of consultation, collaboration, and promised cooperation, the contract agent for Wal-Mart Stores ignored all concerns to remove the long-established nest of red-tailed hawks from a cottonwood tree overlooking its open space pond and wet-land habitat. The controversial site, hammered through by Wal-Mart in total disregard of Lakewood’s Comprehensive Plan, spreads over 25 acres between Bridgeport Way and the Meadow Park Golf Course, north of 75th Street.
Citizens of this north Lakewood residential community are dismayed, having regarded the hawks with awe and admiration for more than two decades; noting their seasonal forbearance of natural adversity to fledge and flight-train a pair of young each summer.
Wal-Mart’s requirement to relocate the nest, presented an extraordinary if not unique opportunity for documentation and evaluation of the hawks adaptation to urban intrusion. Area, regional and state biologists all looked forward to a learning experience, and Wal-Mart stood to earn easy points for its tarnished environmental reputation.
“No one is happy about how this played out,” responded Michelle Tirhi, Wildlife Biologist, with the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife, upon learning of Wal-Mart’s action after the fact. Community leaders, who have consistently urged the city to stand up for the vision that inspired its incorporation, were disappointed that Wal-Mart couldn’t bring this off with a little class; especially after so much preparation with obvious benefit. Meanwhile, observant golfers may see a hawk, now named Katrino, guarding its tree. Let’s hope someone lets him know, and that Wal-Mart takes a lesson in civic duty.
Bob Warfield, Lakewood
Original unedited reply from Ms. Candice Bock
Walmart was not required to relocate the red-tailed hawk’s nest as part of their development project, but instead was required to contribute $250,000 into a fund for habitat restoration in other areas of the city. However, Walmart did opt to move the nest within the site as well as install an artificial nest on the site to provide alternative habitat options for the birds. The red-tailed hawk is not a threatened species, but does have some protection as a migratory bird. Walmart opted to relocate the nest now instead of waiting in an attempt to beat the red-tailed hawk’s nesting season which begins in January. They did not want a hawk to set up housekeeping in the existing nest prior to its removal and relocation.
Lakewood continues to be diligent in working with Walmart to insure that they follow the requirements of the development project.
Mr. Warfield’s follow-up unedited reply
The Suburban Spin?
(The Suburban Times web news published the following titled piece on Dec 14, 2005, based originally upon a reader’s related letter. Following is that reader’s effort to correct distortions, evidently resulting from the publisher’s attempt to produce a story featuring comments by a City of Lakewood PR spokesperson. In this correction, each part of the published story is sequentially reproduced in italics, tagged “SPIN,” and followed by a rebuttal of pertinent factual information. It remains to be seen, whether The Suburban Times will publish any part of this correction.)
“Walmart moves red-tailed hawk nest and gives $250,000 to restore habitats elsewhere in Lakewood”
SPIN: “A Suburban Times reader sent us a note last week asking about the status of a red-tailed hawk’s nest on the proposed site of a Wal-Mart store near the Meadow Park Golf Course.”
FACT: The “reader” asked no such thing, but offered a letter to Times critical of Wal-Mart’s failure to responsibly notify and involve interested and responsible parties of how and when it intended to act upon a requirement to relocate the hawk’s nest & after nearly three years of related discussion and coordination.
SPIN: “The bird, nicknamed Katrino by avid observers, can often be seen guarding a tree near the golf course. Reader Bob Warfield was concerned that the bird and its mate, which reportedly raise a pair of young each year, would be displaced when the mega-retailer built its store on the site.”
FACT: A lot of people are concerned, and have been for some time. Over two years ago, Channel 13 News actually sent a film crew to the site to do a story on the hawks; and preparatory planning considerations involving the WDFW, Audubon naturalists and community observers, following a series of hearings and legal appeals have been elaborated for at least that long. Moreover, the reported “pair of young each year” is an observable and typical fact.
SPIN: “However, The Suburban Times has learned that Wal-Mart has contributed $250,000 to a fund for habitat restoration in other areas of the city as well as opted to move the nest to a better location on the site and build an alternative nest to give the birds options when they begin mating again in January.”
FACT: If Wal-Mart intended to “give $250,000,” they’re about $39,100 short. The amount paid was a required fee for mitigation. Red-tailed hawks, among the largest soaring buteos, renowned for their courting aerial display, typically mate for life, and may live longer than twenty years. Mating and nesting activity begins in early March.
SPIN: “The red-tailed hawk is not a threatened species, but does have some protection as a migratory bird,” said Lakewood spokeswoman Candice Bock. “Walmart opted to relocate the nest now instead of waiting in an attempt to beat the red-tailed hawk’s nesting season which begins in January. They did not want a hawk to set up housekeeping in the existing nest prior to its removal and relocation.”
FACT: Red-tailed hawks and raptors generally enjoy various protections by state and national law deriving from The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife advised early that both the nest site and birds are further covered under provisions of RCW 77.15.130 and WAC 232-12-011. In the end, Wal-Mart’s “expert” ignored months of participation by a dedicated regional WDFW biologist, who sought through numerous communications to coordinate the nest’s relocation.
DISCUSSION: The published story arguably contains elements of truth, but in sum it is wholly misleading.
It suggests that Wal-Mart Stores initiated remedial measures on behalf of the hawks and, out of some generous impulse of concern for wildlife, volunteered a contribution of $250,000 to preserve pristine habitat. Neither point is accurate.
Among other elements of mitigation, Wal-Mart’s act to relocate the nest and pay for wetland replacement were required under Conditions 5 and 6 of the city’s Zoning Certification. In large part, those measures resulted directly from the efforts of community through litigation brought by The Bridgeport Way Community Association (City Limits), and constructive engagement by the City of Lakewood to mitigate some adverse impacts of an ill-sited store. As to the second point, the actual amount of Wal-Mart’s required fee, paid to a special account to benefit wildlife managed by the city, was $210,900, not $250,000.
Our community will be better served if the Suburban Times performs a direct, appropriate and responsible editorial role in consideration of its readers and of their constructive ideas or concerns, rather than carelessly farming communications out to City Hall for their self-serving or promotional distortion.
Lakewood’s web paper appeared to be off to a promising beginning; but spun information quickly undermines credibility and corrodes public confidence in the honest, open dialog this city sorely needs. A letters section constructive to critique and acclaim, care and idea, free of convoluted manipulation, would be a welcome new addition.
Bob Warfield, Lakewood