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Airports play their part to protect wildlife

By John Dean - 03 Jun 2011 21:50:0 GMT
Airports play their part to protect wildlife

Several US airports are taking steps to ensure that they protect precious wildlife habitats at times when they are making increasing demands on land.

The latest one to be recognised is the St. Lucie County International Airport, which was awarded the Regional Director's Conservation Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region.

Officials made the award in recognition of the airport's work to offset the loss of land to its runway by projects including developing a management plan to restore a wetland habitat area and improving a relocation area for gopher tortoises

Mariben Espiritu Andersen, project manager, said: "As an environmental scientist and steward of the environment, it was a rare opportunity to lend mother nature a helping hand to create scrub jay and gopher tortoise habitat and restore wetlands using practical, cost-effective creative methods and comply with permit requirements."

Similar projects are under way elsewhere. The Indianapolis Airport Authority and Hendricks County Parks and Recreation, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recently launched the Sodalis Nature Park in Hendricks County

The park, created on land owned by the airport authority, was named after the endangered Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis, which inhabits wooded areas in and around the park

Land used for the park, totalling 209.5 acres and near Plainfield, has been designated as protected to ensure that the bats can survive despite the airport and associated development in the area.

Greta Hawvermale, the airport authority's senior director of engineering and environmental matters, said: "It is a testament to the benefits of a creative land-use policy that supports thriving populations of local wildlife while offering educational, recreational and economic benefits to citizens in the region."

Al Bennett, who represents Hendricks County on the airport authority board, said: "Sodalis Nature Park will provide significant recreational and educational opportunities in our community, where publicly accessible open space is at a premium."

Gary Emsweller, president of the Hendricks County Park Board, said: "This unique partnership is the first known partnership of its kind in the country."

The project's history goes back to 1992 when the airport authority starting working with the wildlife service to offset the effect of its development projects.

Another recent project has seen the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) involved in environmental projects at O'Hare and Midway International Airports.

Among the work has been the provision by the City of Chicago of more than 447 acres of wetland to mitigate the effects of runway development. Hundreds of acres of wetlands have been enhanced or restored and new wetlands have been created at sites in north-eastern Illinois, including Hyde Lake in Chicago, Tinley Creek Forest Preserve in Cook County, West Branch Forest Preserve in Bartlett and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington.