December 2023

Vol. 51, No. 6`

Zaps: 51-6

Zaps are notes of awareness and pleas for action that appear in the corresponding print edition of Bird Observer. Here they are from the current issue.


The Birding Community E-Bulletin

Vermont has fewer than two dozen designated Important Bird Areas, but they are all very significant, and one of them is the crucial Franklin County Airport (c. 110 acres) in the northwest corner of the state. The site is a breeding location for Grasshopper Sparrow and, at times, Upland Sandpiper. Other grassland-dependent species there include Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Horned Lark.

The airport, owned and managed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), is a single runway airport. The facility is bordered on the south by a private airport and on the southeast by the county fairgrounds which are also maintained as grassland. As a result, Franklin County Airport is part of a significantly larger grassland complex.

This airport is one of the few sites in Vermont where the state threatened Grasshopper Sparrow nests in any significant numbers. This is the current problem.

Organizations like Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council have all raised objections to the widening of the airport runway, work done without getting prior approval from the Agency of Natural Resources as required by state law. (Instead of taking enforcement action, the Agency of Natural Resources issued an incidental take permit, retroactively authorizing the expansion.)

One of the important conditions for the work is that VTrans develop a mitigation plan for new grasslands to offset the loss of Grasshopper Sparrow breeding habitat destroyed by the airport expansion. Any such mitigation plan should have been taken before the project began, and there is no guarantee such a mitigation project would work. Concerned observers insist that the state law needs strengthening. But in the meantime, VTrans and ANR are being watched closely in hopes that they will create viable new habitat for Grasshopper Sparrows.

For more information on the importance of the airport and its status as an IBA, see here: <>. For a summary of concerns as of mid-August, see here: <>. The Birding Community E-Bulletin archives: <>.

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