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Know the West

Noisy wildlife refuges

  Arizona's endangered bobwhite quail and New Mexico's antelope may be running away from national wildlife refuges instead of toward them. According to a recent study by the non-profit Defenders of Wildlife, military overflights continue to disrupt at least 35 refuges. The group's report, Unfriendly Skies, says that while bombers and fighter-planes practice overhead, startled birds knock eggs out of their nests or flee from sudden booms, exposing their young to predators. And in New Mexico, researchers have noticed that bombers overhead distract antelope and deer as they are feeding. A 1990 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study found that where overflights occur, 70 percent of the refuge managers consider the fighter-jets intrusive and damaging to wildlife (HCN, 12/28/92). Yet, "refuge managers appear to have reached an impasse with the military in their efforts to resolve overflight concerns at scores of federal refuges," the report concludes. Unfriendly Skies calls for amendment of two bills pending in Congress to strengthen management of wildlife refuges. The amendment would hold the Department of Defense legally accountable for its impact on refuges, since the "good will of local military commanders is often insufficient." Unfriendly Skies is available from Defenders of Wildlife, 1101 14th St., NW, Washington, DC 20005 (202/682-9400).