A great blue heron rookery, the only in Olmsted County, is being threatened by a proposed development on a 30-acre plot of land in Rochester Township. The birds we see flying overhead and wading in the streams likely came from this site. The development involves cutting down trees with nests to accommodate a road and houses, which, according to experts, would cause the herons to abandon their nests.
This land was designated as “Resource Protected,” but this would need to change before the development could move forward. There is a complicated process with many steps involved, although, surprisingly, it does not involve a required review of the environmental impact of a potential development.
This is where Save the Rookery comes in. We are a grassroots effort trying to preserve the forest that houses the herons. Within weeks, we have created a petition for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet with more than 1,400 signatures, developed a website (www.savetherookery.com), formed a Facebook group (nearly 800 members), Instagram page, and Twitter account, consulted experts, contacted our elected officials and attended meetings, all during a pandemic that has restricted public access to the process.
In response to a letter in support of the herons, one of the Olmsted County Commissioners stated, “People have legal rights to develop their property if they follow all the rules.” Yes, humans do, in fact, have the ultimate power to destroy the entire ecosystem. It is also up to us humans to temper ourselves and save what is important in the natural world.
Lynn D. Cornell, Rochester Township