Proposed Shelby law gives Wildlife Refuge needed protection from ‘incompatible industries’

Posted 12 September 2016 at 7:11 pm


This letter is in response to “The Great Wall of Shelby.”

I believe that Town of Shelby Local Law #2 can be amended to address almost all of the concerns brought to the public hearing.  There were some valid points brought up by those concerned about the proposed law. But I also believe the Town would not be putting this law before the public if they did not think they needed one additional safeguard to protect the Wildlife Refuge from such an inappropriate as the proposed 175-acre quarry.

Land adjacent to the Refuge is zoned agricultural/residential for a reason.  It’s not for industrial use. Local Law #2 is just another measure to help keep incompatible industries like the proposed stone quarry from damaging our Refuge. And if the town’s attorneys think that the current laws on the books are not enough to keep the quarry out, then I welcome any other measures they need to take to do the job that the DEC failed to do.

I don’t believe anyone is naive enough to believe that a 175-acre stone quarry will not harm the Refuge, but in case you still believe that because of the ALJ’s ruling that everything is fine, please understand, the DEC mining permits office is not responsible for protecting or conserving anything. They are in the business of issuing permits.

While it is true the DEC ALJ found our claims to be “without merit,” let me tell you what that means in terms of the SEQR review. It means that Frontier put up their experts, Terrestrial Environmental Specialists. TES is a company that profits from producing data so that any business, with enough money, succeeds in a SEQR review.

It doesn’t matter if their data and facts are correct or not. Because they are accepted as experts, their data is accepted by the DEC as fact. Any facts that dispute what they say are ignored. The DEC doesn’t allow a battle of experts. TES data trumps any other expert’s data. If they say the sky is green and our experts say it is blue, the DEC does not have to consider our facts as having merit.

For example, I’ve got a degree in Animal Science from Cornell University, and nearly 30 years’ worth of experience working with raptors. When I told the judge that an owls’ hearing is far greater than a human’s, so they cannot be compared to humans when determining effects of blasting noise, the judge’s response was, “How do you know that?” Given my credentials, he agreed that I could be considered an expert. Then he ignored my fact.

When I said that the study TES referenced, claiming that “Short Eared Owls frequent mines and quarries” was done on a quarry that was no longer in operation. It was a closed quarry. The DEC ignored it.

When I said the local DEC has done studies on Short Eared Owls and Northern Harriers in the area of the proposed quarry, that people come from all over the country to watch them in that area, the DEC ignored it.

When I said the Short Eared Owls and Northern Harriers in our area frequent the local farm fields, they ignored it. When I said that Bald Eagles fly more than ½ mile from their nests to forage for food, the DEC lawyer said, “Well the experts at TES said they wouldn’t.” I think you get the idea. Actual facts that disputed the TES statements in the DEIS were not considered as having merit.

Anyone who believes that the NYSDEC is a strict organization hasn’t been following this or any other SEQR review for the past 30 years. In fact, as long as the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed, the DEC has been approving mining permits since its existence. Any land-use attorney can tell you, the SEQR review is won by the organization with the most money.

If the DEC lawyers and ALJ were truly interested in protecting the environment in the State of NY, they would have turned to their own Division of Wildlife in Albany, or better yet their own department here at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to see what they thought of the idea of putting an industrial stone quarry next to one of the most sensitive habitats in the State of New York.

If the local DEC employees weren’t so afraid of the DEC lawyers, and in fear for their jobs, they would have been honest and told the facts about Short Eared Owls and Norther Harriers.

They know that the Short Eared Owls and Northern Harriers in Shelby often frequent the farm fields in and around the proposed quarry site. They have been studying the Short Eared Owls here for years because the birds are so endangered. Unfortunately, they weren’t consulted by their own department before making this decision.

Mr. Mahar would like you to believe that he will be working together in glorious harmony with the refuge staff, helping them to manage water on the refuge. The only problem with that is the Refuge staff never asked for his help.

In fact, they wouldn’t need his help if the quarry weren’t going to be disrupting the water in the Refuge.  The refuge staff have been managing the water, with its seasonal variations, for over 50 years with the help of Mother Nature.

It is not the Town of Shelby’s job to collaborate with a business to put forth a project with the potential to damage one of our greatest treasures. The Town Board was smart to wait out the process in the hopes that the SEQR review would do the job it was originally designed to do.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and now the Town is forced to use every measure in their power to fight the inevitable lawsuits that will be brought upon them by Frontier Stone when the Town denies the re-zoning and mining overlay district.

Shelby Local Law #2 is one such measure. And with some amendment, I welcome the law, and anything it can do to assist the Town Board in protecting our most valuable local natural resource.

I commend the Town Board for having the guts to stand up to this fight and give it everything they’ve got. They were smart to propose this law if it helps protect the town in future lawsuits and helps to protect the Refuge.

As President of Citizens for Shelby Preservation, we support you 100%.

Wendi Pencille

Shelby resident

President Citizens for Shelby Preservation