April 23, 2012 by Joseph C. Neal
Everywhere I go in northwest Arkansas giving bird programs people ask me about birds they used to see here, but don’t see now very often. Lots of the old-timers remember bobwhite quail, that pleasant, whistled BOB WHITE! So do I. My answer to such questions is usually the same: it’s about habitat. Like people, birds have specific needs. If the habitat needs aren’t met, it’s . . . well . . . bye bye birdie.
Washington County voters have an opportunity on May 22 that speaks to part of this issue. Birds won’t be on the ballot, but the question considered can help. The ballot involves one penny tax on each four dollars spent, with pennies and dollars set aside to support and expand local transportation for all the people — I’ll just say buses for short. More buses and more ways and places to ride them ultimately translates into fewer cars and less habitat destruction.
During the past 40 odd years I’ve had chances to vote on vexing issues involving sales taxes. I have usually favored lower taxes and so I’ve voted against many taxes. But expanding towns and cities have reduced quality habitat for all kinds of plants and animals. Birds once common in Washington County, like bobwhite quail, have become hard to find. More commuters using buses instead of cars overall means less pressure on the environment, and that’s positive for birds and people.
I am NOT saying if you vote YES it will immediately mean the return of the wily and much-treasured bobwhite. But what I am saying is that we have to start somewhere. Of course we can put our heads in the sand and hope our environmental problems magically disappear. We can say our prayers for birds and hope. I personally recommend the power of prayer. But let’s try to be adults here just for a minute.
If we are going to get a handle on numerous vexing environmental issues peculiar to our age, including too many people driving too many cars over too many roads despoiling too much wildland habitat, we have to do something specific that addresses the problem. If we expect an older generation that can’t drive or can’t afford to own a dependable car, but still need to get to the doctor and go shopping, we have to do something. If we expect workers to get dependably to jobs that pay minimum wage or less, we have to do something.
Sure if we own a new Subaru Outback or a Hummer 3 we can with ease get to that job cleaning houses in northeast Fayetteville. But many of us will need the bus. Let’s get more busses rolling to more places. Let’s get started on a sensible environmental program that will contribute toward real solutions for real people – and for birds.
The birds tell me YES on May 22 is the right thing to do. And it’s the right thing for our people, too.