Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lifting the Cone of Silence

Knock knock?

Who's there, dammit??????

The second longest-running "Knock-knock" joke in history, after Hamlet...

We who have been involved in chasing phantoms and things that go bump in the swamps of west Tennessee over the last year or two have agreed that there's little need for continued secrecy about our adventures. So... starting next month I will begin posting a retrospective journal about my own experiences on this Fool's Journey.


At 4:21 AM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

I'm not quite clear Bill, is this a decision that those of you in Tenn. have taken on your own, or has Cornell given its blessing to all state search groups to now say as much as they choose to of their own exploits? i.e., are we likely to see others follow your lead, or not so likely? (or were you never under the same confidentiality agreements as others?)

At 4:53 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Cornell has no say at all over what the individual state groups do. There's this very incorrect impression out there that Cornell owns this bird and runs this show nationwide. This is not true and never has been true. Their authority extends only to their own employees and volunteers. Cornell doesn't even run the whole operation on Arkansas. The Arkansas Nature Conservancy has its own people, budget, and search activities. They operate in cooperation with Cornell, of course; but they don't operate under Cornell.

The ultimate authority here is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They rather literally do own this bird under the ESA. If they declared that there was a sensitive population of this species in the Big Woods, designated the Big Woods to be critical habitat, and decided that the species must not be disturbed, then Cornell would have been out on their collective ass in a heartbeat. Fortunately the FWS people have been extremely cooperative with Cornell and many other private and government search groups (although the cooperation in the other direction has not always been so seamless...).

There's also the fact that the State and Federal employees who have been involved in these searches are public servants, and the data collected are actually owned by the general public, only to be kept secret when there is a clear risk of harm from revealing it. Given the results that nearly everone has had, it's hard to see how a few extra birders in these refuges and WMAs would do much harm considering the heavy human use they already get and vast home ranges of these birds, if they really exist.

So, the decision here was up to us at the State level and the Feds who oversee this region. I'm not going to be taking about anything that hasn't gotten the go-ahead through these channels. Cornell isn't in the chain of command.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger coyote said...

If on private land, what about the landowners?

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I'm only going to be talking about my own experiences here, and I have not worked on private land. Everyone involved with the Moss Island work is onboard with going public. There has been other work done on private and federal land. I do know, though, that at least in Tennessee there isn't anything "better" from other sites.

In general, work on private land is done with consent of the landowners, and is kept confidential unless the landowners give permission.


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