Press release regarding sewer line construction in Roberts Bird Sanctuary

This press release was received by Park Watch from Matt Johnson today.

Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary
Matt Johnson, President

Treasured Minneapolis Bird Sanctuary in Peril

Friends of rare urban nature area oppose devastation to habitat and vegetation

Minneapolis, MN – The Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary (FRBS) announced today that it opposes the current plan to rehabilitate the 100-year-old sewer line running through the Sanctuary and called on the Metropolitan Council to adjust its plan for work inside the Sanctuary. According to FRBS President Matt Johnson, “While everyone understands the necessity of upgrading the sewer line, the Met Council’s current plan ignores the fact that this area is a bird sanctuary and would result in unnecessary devastation and loss of habitat that would last for decades.”

According to the Friends, key aspects of the rehabilitation plan have changed drastically since the Met Council conducted meetings and open houses to inform the public. For example, the width of the work zone through the Sanctuary has increased from 10 feet to 60 feet since the project was announced. Such a wide zone of destruction will result in the loss of many more trees important for nesting owls and other birds. Despite earlier assurances that work would not occur during bird migration periods, work is now likely to start during Fall migration. Normally migrant birds use the sanctuary as a stopover to rest; however, the current plan will eliminate this option for birds. MPRB is also planning to use a crude oil aggregate, bitumen, as a surface material inside the Sanctuary, which will certainly pollute the Sanctuary’s fragile wetland environment.

Audubon Minnesota and two local Audubon chapters have joined with the Friends of Roberts and with organizations representing the two neighborhoods in which the Sanctuary is located (East Harriet-Farmstead Neighborhood Association and the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council) to oppose the Met Council’s current plan. All six organizations signed a letter urging the Met Council to meet with them to resolve concerns before finalizing the plan for the sewer work inside the bird sanctuary. To date both the Met Council and MPRB have refused to address these critical concerns.

The letter states, “We are very concerned about the lack of an explicit mitigation plan that acknowledges and accommodates the value and fragility of the bird sanctuary, and with the lack of transparency over the past few months as the Met Council met with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board staff to finalize plans.”

Take Action to Protect the Sanctuary

FRBS encourages people to contact the Met Council, MPRB Commissioners and MPRB Superintendent urging full transparency and modifications to the work plan that will ensure a strong, detailed and contractual commitment to minimize the disruption and damage to the Sanctuary.

About Roberts Bird Sanctuary

The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a 31-acre undeveloped natural area located in Lyndale Park near the Peace Garden in southwest Minneapolis. One of only two bird sanctuaries in the Minneapolis park system, Roberts Bird Sanctuary is part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Important Bird Area (IBA), which is recognized as a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations, both migrating and resident. Hundreds of species visit the Sanctuary during migration.

About the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary

The Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Inc. is a Minnesota non-profit corporation formed in 2013 whose purpose is to protect, preserve, and enhance the Sanctuary as a sustainable and thriving habitat and sanctuary for birds and other native wildlife; to safeguard the integrity of the Sanctuary as an undeveloped natural area connecting people with nature; to enhance through education visitors’ appreciation and understanding of Minnesota’s birds and native wildlife and their natural environments as part of an intricate and balanced web of life; to promote and to assist in the implementation of management techniques in and near the Sanctuary that protect and enhance water quality and wildlife habitat.