Two Chautauqua County residents are the first dual recipients of the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York’s “˜”˜Conservationist of the Year Award.”
The presentation to Leonard DeFrancisco of Falconer and Gil Randell of Mayville was made at the society’s annual banquet in recognition of their work in preventing construction of a wind energy project across a major North American bird migration route.
The two men are principals in the Ripley Hawk Watch project that has gathered considerable information for more than 20 years regarding the northward migration of birds, bats and some insect species along the ridges bordering the Lake Erie shore.
The data compiled as a result of the longterm project has led to a much better understanding of the importance of this Lake Erie flyway.
Thousands of birds of prey use this route each spring to reach their nesting grounds farther north.
Its use is not restricted to only the common migrating species, with such rarities as the Mississippi Kite and Swainson’s Hawk also using the migration route, with even Whooping Cranes observed passing one day.
It was determined they were from a flock being trained to nest in Wisconsin in summer and migrate to central Florida for the winter season.
About four years ago when the wind energy project was proposed, it called for placing large, powerful turbines across the migration route.
DeFrancisco and Randell presented the data they had accumulated over several years to show the importance of the migration route to numerous bird species.
They also located at least two active Bald Eagle nests that may have been threatened if the turbines were installed.
The pair’s numerous telephone calls, e-mail messages, and letters to individuals, groups, and government agencies over a long time period produced positive results.
The wind energy project has been put on the back burner and probably never will be constructed as outlined in the original proposal.
The dedicated longterm efforts of DeFrancisco and Randell have been recognized as instrumental in bird and animal migration routes being considered in plans for other wind energy projects across the country.
It is for their dogged efforts that the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York named them co-winners of its “˜”˜Conservationist of the Year” award.
By Manley J. Anderson
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