Letter to the Editor: Pitzer’s “Broken Promise” to the Bernard Field Station

A bobcat prowls the Bernard Field Station.

To the wonderful students I teach at the Bernard Field Station,

I feel I have let you down. I have been blinded by my faith in Pitzer College and my hope for sustainability. In the last few weeks you have started work at dawn for several consecutive days to carry out conservation research. You have found ways to study the elusive bobcat. You have spent hours in the heat patiently observing bird behavior.  I told you that this is what it takes to work for conservation. All the while, bulldozers and trucks have been roaring by us to build Pitzer’s Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability. I thought that each impact was an oversight and would be the last but the destruction continues. This building replaced the abandoned infirmary that stood on the site. Pitzer has broken its promise to the students and faculty who use the adjacent Bernard Field Station for study and research because the footprint of damage goes way beyond the previously existing building. Currently a new “path” (5 ft. wide road) is going in through endangered California Sage Scrub habitat. The new “path” is being built despite the existing, perfectly usable, paved road that goes directly to the building. The Conservancy is landscaped with pavement and mulch (which introduces seeds of invasive species). Sprinklers are in place. Lights are beaming into the night around the building. Light pollution is serious—migrating birds will be disoriented and fly into windows at night. Nocturnal predators need the dark to be able to forage. The loss of habitat is unforgivable (including the cutting down of trees where birds were known to nest). This week Pitzer is furiously digging a trench just outside the fence along Foothill Boulevard for fiber optic cables for the new building— endangered Federally listed plants were narrowly saved by the actions of people who reported the unexpected construction activity. Yesterday there was a new level of destruction; the branches of the plants cut down for this trench were thrown inside the fence on top of other endangered plants. This hostile act has created a fire hazard, is crushing rare plants, and is introducing invasive plants to the imperiled habitat. There is too much is at stake here; we can’t let things get worse! Robert Redford, a fellow movie star named the Lorax wants to talk to you.

Nina J. Karnovsky

Associate Professor of Biology

Pomona College


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