Clearcutting ordered at golf course pond criticized by bird watchers – Santa Fe New Mexican


Advertisement
Jon Weiss, course manager of Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course, points out a pond in the middle of the golf course Wednesday and says it’s a prime spot for bird watching. Weiss aims to turn two other ponds, used as water features on the course, into a new viewing site for bird watchers, who are known as birders.
A bird sits on a tree branch along a pond at Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course on Wednesday. Jon Weiss, owner of Marty Sanchez, said there have been 209 different bird species spotted at the golf course.
Jonathan Worthington putts Wednesday at Marty Sanchez Links next to a pond where dozens of birds can often be seen.
Bird watchers point at a flock of birds at Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course on Wednesday.

Reporter
Jon Weiss, course manager of Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course, points out a pond in the middle of the golf course Wednesday and says it’s a prime spot for bird watching. Weiss aims to turn two other ponds, used as water features on the course, into a new viewing site for bird watchers, who are known as birders.
Jonathan Worthington putts Wednesday at Marty Sanchez Links next to a pond where dozens of birds can often be seen.
A golf course irrigation pond once surrounded with brush and small trees that drew a rich variety of birds is now nearly bare of any vegetation.
Those who come out to the city-owned Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe to see winged creatures flying — rather than golf balls — bemoan the loss of habitat, which was easily accessible and a way station for migratory birds.
Cornell University’s ornithology laboratory website, eBird, lists 200 species that have been spotted over the years at the pond.
All may not be lost as the golf course manager looks to create a new site for bird watchers, who call themselves birders, to engage in their pastime.
The state Environment Department says the foliage had to be removed from the irrigation pond to comply with the city of Santa Fe’s discharge permit for storing and dispensing treated wastewater at the municipal golf course.
Trees and shrubs must be cleared at least 5 feet back from the pond to prevent roots from damaging the clay lining and releasing effluent into the groundwater, an Environment Department spokesman wrote in an email.
“The man-made ponds used for water storage, called impoundments, build hydraulic pressure that increases the likelihood of water in the ponds reaching groundwater when the clay liner becomes compromised by tree roots,” Matt Maez wrote.
Maez added the agency seeks to protect “the groundwater that Santa Feans depend on” from the ponds’ treated wastewater, which contains pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, and other organic and inorganic compounds.
Birders mostly accepted the explanation, but a couple who were interviewed thought the agency was being too rigid and should allow some adjacent vegetation if it’s not shown to threaten the pond’s retention.
“It’s terrible,” Tom Jervis of Audubon New Mexico said of the habitat loss. “A permit is only a piece of paper. It doesn’t really have anything to do with reality.”
A bird sits on a tree branch along a pond at Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course on Wednesday. Jon Weiss, owner of Marty Sanchez, said there have been 209 different bird species spotted at the golf course.
The city has paused the cutting to see if some other solution can be found.
Maez wrote that the Environment Department is open to considering alternative methods for the city to comply with the discharge permit.
Meanwhile, Jon Weiss, the golf course manager, aims to turn two other ponds, used as water features on the course, into a new viewing site for birders.
Weiss walked atop a berm above one pond, which is surrounded by vegetation. Cattails envelop the second pond, giving it a marshy appearance. Water is piped from the irrigation pond to fill both.
The project will involve replacing a broken recirculation pump that generates a stream between the ponds, Weiss said.
Aside from the pleasant feel of a flowing stream, it would keep the water moving through the ponds so it doesn’t become stagnant, as it does now, creating a bluer, cleaner look, he said.
“This is much more aesthetically pleasing birding habitat,” Weiss said of the water features. “As a birder, I would much rather come here than the irrigation pond, which is a glorified holding tank.”
Weiss wasn’t just speaking theoretically. He described himself as an avid birder who moved here in April from Eastern Tanzania, a global hub for migratory birds.
He said his goal was to turn Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe into an official bird sanctuary golf course, making it a multi-use recreational space.
Bird watchers point at a flock of birds at Marty Sanchez Links Golf Course on Wednesday.
When he took a group of birders, including from Audubon, to the two ponds, their response was “overwhelmingly positive” about converting them to a viewing site.
He said he initially thought they were troubled about losing bird habitat, but as he got deeper into the conversation, the main concern they expressed was loss of an accessible spot to birdwatch.
“There’s plenty of bird habitat on our property; we’ve got 1,100 acres here, many different water features,” Weiss said. “So the birds have places to go. It was the birders that didn’t have any place to go.”
Lonnie Howard, a local bird enthusiast, said she disagreed with the notion that birders care more about losing a longtime viewing site than the habitat.
“It might be true for some birders who care only about the sport, but most birders I know are passionate about protecting habitat,” Howard said. “Most are conservationists. It’s heartbreaking to see that habitat destroyed.”
The other two ponds were already there, so they won’t replace the lost habitat, she added.
Still, Howard applauded Weiss for working with the regional Audubon to enhance another area of the golf course where treated wastewater has different permitting rules.
“There’s some potential here,” she said. “It could be a real feather in the golf course’s cap if there could be consciously planned habitat for wildlife, and birders to share that golf course.”
Maez wrote in his email that in contrast to the main storage pond, the irrigation water used on the golf course doesn’t reach groundwater because it’s absorbed in the grass and plants.
Weiss said the plan was for the birders to enter a back gate, allowing a much shorter walk to the ponds than from the clubhouse.
But Jervis said the problem with the plan is people would have to go through the neighboring landfill to access the gate — and they’d be limited to the hours when the landfill is open.
The best option would seem to be creating a path from the clubhouse birders can use so they don’t get in golfers’ way and don’t risk getting hit by stray golf balls, he said.
“We want to be … good guests of the golf course, but we also want to get to those ponds,” Jervis said. “We just want to try to figure out a way to do that.”
Jonathan Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest, commended the golf course manager’s effort to fill a void caused by a regulatory action.
“As birders, we tend to get attached to the places we like to go,” Hayes wrote in an email. “But if [the ponds] could provide a comparable site, I’d imagine those birders that frequent the course would be willing to make the adjustment and move to a new area.”
Reporter
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
Advertisement
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular images.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular videos.
Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.
Sorry, an error occurred.

Stay informed of the latest local news by receiving emails as soon as news is posted online.
Receive a list of headlines from the latest edition of The New Mexican in your inbox every morning.
Contests and special offers from The Santa Fe New Mexican and advertising partners.

Thank you .
Your account has been registered, and you are now logged in.
Check your email for details.
Invalid password or account does not exist
Submitting this form below will send a message to your email with a link to change your password.
An email message containing instructions on how to reset your password has been sent to the e-mail address listed on your account.

Secure & Encrypted
Secure transaction. Cancel anytime.

Thank you.
Your purchase was successful, and you are now logged in.
A receipt was sent to your email.

source