Challenge Grant for Lake-Cook Stewardship Project

The Illinois Audubon Society received good news  in September 2021 that its application to Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation’s Community Challenge Grant has been accepted. The primary focus of this stewardship proposal is for the removal of invasive species and restoration with seeding and prescribed burning of the natural areas at Lake County property owned by Lake Forest Open Lands (LFOLA).

Early in 2020, the Lake-Cook Chapter of Illinois Audubon Society (IAS) became aware of the parcel and met with LFOLA staff to discuss possible volunteer stewardship opportunities at the site. A new partnership between IAS Lake-Cook Chapter and LFOLA was formed and the chapter immediately stepped in to install, monitor and maintain bluebird boxes and a purple martin system.

Volunteers initiated a breeding bird survey in the summer of 2021 and members have attended workdays that have been scheduled so far in 2021. Additional grant funds are available based on the number of hours that Lake-Cook Chapter volunteer stewards devote to restoration of the project area, as well as volunteer time spent on promoting the project on social media.

Owl Researcher Jonathan C. Slaght Wins Literary Science Writing Award

World Conservation Society has announced that biologist and author Jonathan C. Slaght has won the 2021 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for his book “Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl.” Congratulations, Jon!

Jon generously presented to Lake Cook Audubon on February 16, 2021. Many of those who attended have since read his book and given it rave reviews.

View the nominations as well as Jon’s brief acceptance remarks. You can read an excerpt from the book as well as buy it here.


Volunteer to Count Breeding Birds for Bird Conservation Network


BCN – the Bird Conservation Network – is a volunteer organization of 20 conservation groups across Northeast Illinois. BCN is dedicated to the preservation of our endemic breeding bird species. Lake/Cook Chapter is a charter member of BCN.

The centerpiece of BCN’s volunteer work is coordinating annual surveys of breeding birds at selected preserves across the region. For the past 20 years, these surveys have provided vital information for understanding the population trends of the key species we all care about. Most importantly, this detailed data is used by forest preserve districts and other land managers to identify their properties’ most critical preservation and restoration needs.

+ Birders are invited to volunteer

Since the count data is used for habitat conservation planning and scientific studies, volunteers with at least three years of birding experience are needed. You don’t need to be a super birder to volunteer, but bird survey participants should be able to identify birds breeding in our area by sound as well as by sight.

You can volunteer to monitor alone, or you can team up with a birding friend to monitor together. Only one birder in a team needs to be adept at identifying birds by sound.

+ What volunteers do


Monitoring entails two bird survey visits in June at one of the selected preserves in our area. As a monitor, you go to pre-determined points throughout your chosen preserve and count the number of birds seen and heard for ten minutes at each point.   You enter your results into a special app Forest Preserve app (mECO) on your smartphone as you monitor at each point.  The app automatically records weather conditions and also prompts you for questions about the foliage.

+ Nearby Properties Where Volunteer Monitors Are Needed:

Lake County

To volunteer or if you have any questions, contact:
BCN Monitor Coordinator Charlotte Pavelka

We hope you’ll consider becoming a monitor. The information you collect assists natural resource managers in preserving the places we love to bird and provides vital data in assessing how well we’re doing in preserving our bird species.

Backyard/Nearby Amateur Bird Photo Contest

Calling all amateur and casual bird photographers! While we’re social distancing, Lake/Cook Chapter invites you to submit bird photos taken in your backyard or on your nearby birding adventures for posting on the chapter’s Facebook page and recognition of the best snaps. Cellphone and regular cameras are fine – this isn’t a professional photo competition (no $10,000+ cameras please!) but just a way to stay connected and enjoy the spring migration together without the benefit of field trips.

Submit photos to with your name (for children’s entries first name only and age), photo date, photo location, title and category. Camera/lens information is optional.


  1. Best Through-the-Window Photo
  2. Cutest Bird Photo
  3. Most Surprising Backyard Visitor
  4. Best Bird Behavior Photo
  5. Best Young Birder Photo (ages 8-16)
  6. Best Warbler Photo


  1. Contest runs May 15-June 15.
  2. One photo of interest will be featured at the end of each week.
  3. Photos must be of birds taken in Illinois in 2020 ONLY.
  4. Do not alter photos in any way other than enlarging or cropping.
  5. Do not submit professional photos. This is a contest for fun – not to show off our camera equipment.
  6. Submit photos to with your name (first name only and age for children), photo date, photo location, title and category.Camera/lens information is optional.
  7. The contest coordinator will post your photos on the Lake/Cook Facebook page (Photo Contest Album).


  1. Photos will be judged on originality, composition, timeliness (extra credit for spring migrants!) and general appeal.
  2. The top three photos in each category will be announced one week after the contest closes.
  3. There are no prizes, but winners earn bragging rights!

Have fun and stay safe!

Stettner’s Silk Moth Copiopteryx Semiramis

A recent trip to Costa Rica turned up Copiopteryx semiramis, a large silk moth along the lines of our cecropia and luna moths.  This species has no common name, so there is a move to name the species “Stettner’s silk moth”.

Stettner’s silk moth, Copiopteryx semiramis is a member of the subfamily Saturniinae. It typically has a wingspan of about 10 centimeters. Its patterned brown wings act as camouflage to evade predators. It is found mainly in the rain forests of South America

There is a long history of naming species after naturalists that are held in high esteem by the community. Craig Stettner (1963 – 2018) was a much-admired faculty member at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois where the College has also dedicated the Craig Stettner Prairie on its property.

Craig ran a popular study abroad program in Costa Rica, providing students with life changes experiences personally and academically. His commitment to conservation and passion for the environment was inspiring.

This public domain image comes from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and is available online

The Environmental Protection(?) Agency

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Earlier this year, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, wrote in “EPA Year in Review” of the EPA having taken “22 deregulatory actions that saved Americans more than $1 billion in regulatory costs.”

No doubt there are economic costs to the implementation of regulations, and savings to be gained in eliminating them. But are there also economic benefits achieved through regulation. How do the $1 billion in savings proudly announced by Administrator Pruitt, resulting from the “22 deregulatory actions,” compare to the value of benefits lost?

Consider one example: the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1970 by a bipartisan Congress during the Nixon years.

Less than a year ago, Cost-Benefit Analysis of EPA Regulations and Clean Air, was published by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The entire article is worth reading but it included a 2011 cost-benefit study conducted by the EPA itself, concluding that by the year 2025 “the Amendments to the Clean Air Act passed in 1990 will have prevented 230,000 early deaths, and saved the country around 2 trillion dollars.  This is compared to the costs of the amendments, which the EPA calculated to be approximately 65 billion dollars.”

Think about this: it cost $65 billion to implement the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. Those regulations are estimated, by the EPA, to have saved $2 trillion and prevented 230,000 early deaths. Just in monetary terms, there was a net savings of $1,935,000,000,000 – that’s one trillion, nine hundred thirty five billion dollars. The benefit outweighed the cost by a factor of over 300.

The language of many of the deregulatory actions Mr. Pruitt announced includes phrases like “Relaxation”, “Postponement”, “Reconsideration”, “Stay of Certain Requirements”, etc. Nowhere is mention made of the savings.

An important distinction should be made here, as well. Many of the costs in implementing regulations, are borne by the businesses and industries being regulated. Meanwhile, many of the benefits are enjoyed by the public. In the deregulation actions undertaken by the EPA, Mr. Pruitt is effectively transferring the benefits back to the businesses and industries, and the costs back to the public. It could be argued there is a moral decision being made, in addition to a financial one.

In a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, conservative columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, “Regulation, you know, is good—we’re all human; business leaders will make decisions that are good for the company or shareholders or themselves, but not necessarily good for the town, state, country…..But excessive regulation….kills progress, growth, jobs, good ideas and products.” In other words, there is a balance to be achieved when it comes to regulations.

The overall question becomes; does the EPA’s deregulation spree of the last year-and-a-half remedy an onerous burden of “overregulation” that had been shouldered by businesses, or is it simply favoring corporate profits at the expense of the public interest? Without knowing the benefits of the regulations themselves, and weighing them against the cost savings of eliminating them, it will be impossible to know whether the EPA is making sound decisions, or whether Mr. Pruitt has succeeded in turning it into the Environmental Destruction Agency.

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Conservation Wins

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Occasionally the news is really good. The Bipartisan Budget Act signed into law late last year should be applauded by conservationists everywhere. Although the administration’s proposed budget included draconian cuts to a wide variety of environmental programs, with a reduction in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31%, the final bill actually contained an increase for the EPA in excess of three-quarters of a billion dollars. In fact most of the agencies responsible for environmental protection received an increase from the prior year.

Moreover, a variety of environmental rules that were targeted for overturn were left largely untouched or even strengthened. Consider just one example, not just the language in the enacted law, but its tone. It pertains to the plummeting populations of our nation’s bats, consumers of billions of mosquitos and other night flying insects and a mammal that’s an essential part of our nation’s ecosystem, caused by a fungus called white-nose syndrome.

White-Nose Syndrome.-The four Federal land management agencies and the U.S. Geological Survey are expected to continue to prioritize research on, and efforts to address, white-nose syndrome in bats and to work with other Federal, State, and non-governmental partners to implement the North American Bat Monitoring Program.”


A few other examples of the Act’s protecting our environmental heritage includes spending by the Corps of Engineers, an agency that increasingly factors in conservation in performing their mission. In every case I cite here, the administration’s budget had zeroed out any expenditures for these programs.

Shore Protection $53,000,000; Environmental Restoration or Compliance $35,000,000; Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection, $8,000,000; Project Modifications for Improvement of the Environment, $4,000,000 (Here the administration’s budget did propose $1,000,000). In some cases these identical programs are enhanced by appropriations for the same purposes but by other cabinet departments.

Other notable improvements over the administration’s budget: Funding for The National Park Service had been targeted for a 12 % decrease, but has been increased by 9%. Funding for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the National Wildlife Refuge System has been increased by $75 million to $1.6 billion. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), an eight-state, binational, bipartisan effort to clean up polluted areas which had been facing budget reductions of 90%, has been fully funded. The Land and Water Conservation Fund went from the administration’s 0 to $425,000,000.

Hawaii is known as the bird extinction capital of the world, per this from the Fish and Wildlife Service “Since humans arrived, 71 bird species have become extinct and 31 more are federally listed as threatened or endangered. Of these, 10 have not been seen in as long as 40 years and may be extinct.” Recognizing the peril of endangered forest birds in Hawaii this Act increased funding for Hawaii’s bird conservation efforts to $3 million.

The big picture: the entire Department of Interior, which includes the EPA and other environmentally related agencies saw their allotment increase from $32.28 billion to $35.25 billion, and the Department of Energy’s appropriation went from 37.8 billion to $43.2 billion.

I must emphasize that this list is only a tiny fraction of a bill over 300 pages in length.

It’s doubtful this could have happened without a lot hard work by Nature Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, and many other fine conservation organizations. They deserve your help.

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The Importance of Dirt

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

The four absolute essentials to all life on earth — plant and animal — are sun, air, water and soil. There’s a general recognition of the importance of the first three, but we more or less take for granted the fourth: “dirt”, or more accurately soil. Soil is found throughout the seven continents, including the lake and stream beds underlying bodies of water, and is critical to life. We grow crops, build buildings, roads and all kinds of structures on soil, but unless we’re gardeners or in some way involved in agriculture, we pay almost no mind to it.
Yet from the Soil Science Society of America we learn that “a handful of soil has more living organisms than there are people on planet Earth.”
Just a few things that soil does:
  • Provides nutrition for the food we eat, both plant and animal.
  • Aids in nutrient recycling.
  • Generates biodiversity and supplies vital habitat for a multitude of species.
  • Improves our air quality and purifies our water.
  • Nurtures trees and other plants that are essential in nature’s food chain.
  • Limits erosion and provides flood control.
  • Is a storehouse of archeological wonders.
Soil is created by the decomposition of organic and inorganic matter, and it takes some 2,000 years to form just four inches or so of topsoil. Yet our soil is in trouble.
Threats to Soil:
  • In the early 1930s, unremitting strong winds, a severe drought and poor farming methods gave us the dust bowl and the loss of more than 100,000,000 acres of topsoil, primarily in Texas and Oklahoma. One lesson from that time is that unplowed native prairies, with their deep-rooted grasses, anchored the soil and withstood the ravages of the disaster.
  • Today, continuing soil degradation or actual loss of soil occurs through a variety of causes, including continued harmful land use practices, urbanization, erosion, land and water pollution, compaction by heavy farm equipment, cattle and other livestock, and especially intensive use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Unlike compost, which slowly feeds soil the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that it requires, synthetic fertilizers “acidify soil with long-term use, rendering it inhospitable for microbial life.”
What you can do:
Healthy soil is critical to life, and every effort should be made to keep it as nature intended. We can all start by protecting the soil in our own homes. Use compost instead of dousing your lawn with synthetics. Better yet, replace your turf-grass with native plants that do fine without any fertilizer. Buying organic is the wisest choice in so many respects, including maintaining life-giving soil.
Finally, Congress is reauthorizing the Farm Bill in 2018. Ask your elected officials to support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance to farmers for improved soil health.
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Our Wildlife is Going, Going…

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Not all gone, at least not yet. But the trend toward a reduction in biodiversity is deeply troubling.

Why does it matter if poachers, habitat loss, and legal and illegal hunting drive elephants to extinction? How will the loss of whales, tigers, polar bears and Whooping Cranes affect our daily lives? A world without these and innumerable other threatened and endangered inhabitants of our planet is a world not only diminished for people, but also in many cases life-threatening to us. From the World Wildlife Fund: “Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.”

During earth’s history, five mass extinctions have occurred. We are now in the midst of the sixth—the Anthropocene—literally meaning the age of the humans. We have begun an epoch where humans bear direct responsibility for the current unprecedented rate of extinctions. From the Center for Biological Diversity, “Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”

Human actions such as exploitation of natural resources, environmental contamination, deforestation, overpopulation, climate change and habitat loss have increased the extinction rate to unprecedented levels, and the impact on earth’s ecosystems has been (and will continue to be) devastating. For example, land use planner Randy Carpenter describes in an article in the Mountain Journal how the continued population growth rate in the Bozeman/Gallatin/Greater Yellowstone area will turn “America’s most iconic wild ecosystem…to a tidal wave of people.”

What can be done and what can you do? There are powerful forces driving our latest unprecedented rate of extinctions. But they can be resisted. The despoiling of natural habitats must be reversed, and those wild places that remain must be preserved. There must also be an increased recognition of wildlife’s value for its own sake, as well as for how it benefits people. One study calculated the value of the ecological services that nature provides us to be approximately $33 trillion, equal to almost the entire world’s gross product! A few suggestions for how you can help:

  • Donate to conservation organizations like land trusts, and help them to directly protect habitat.
  • If you cannot afford a cash gift, then donate your time. Many organizations have volunteer programs so you can help clean beaches, cut brush, gather seeds or pull unwanted plants.
  • Say it! Speak up and share your passion for wildlife conservation with friends and family.

Much of wildlife protection is achieved or lost via the political realm. If you do not have a relationship with your elected officials, cultivate one. Ask for a face-to-face meeting and express your concern about wildlife tracking, endangered species protections and diminishing wildlife populations.

This Newsletter may be excerpted, reproduced or circulated without limitation. 

Green Food Choices

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Many different factors influence the foods and drinks that we buy and consume, including availability, cost, taste, freshness, and healthiness. One factor that is often overlooked is environmental impact. Consumer choices have a dramatic effect on our environment. Here are some examples of ways to increase your environmentally conscious eating habits:
Spare the rainforest
  • Did your hamburger come from a cow that munched on grasses that had once been a biodiverse, oxygen-producing Amazonian rainforest? According to the Global Forest Atlas, “Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazonian country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates.” Whenever possible, look for country of origin labels and buy local.
Limit pollutants from factory farms
  • Avoid purchasing pork, poultry, beef, and other livestock products sourced from animals raised in large “concentrated animal feeding operations.” These factory farms are known to release significant amounts of contaminants into the air and water.
Buy organic to reduce pesticide use in your food
  • As agricultural pests evolve and become immune to traditional pesticides, manufacturers seeking to stop the critters develop newer, more pernicious chemical combinations that lace our food with pesticide residues. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges that pest-killing residues were found on 85% of tested foods. Though the USDA claims that the levels found were lower than would be harmful to people, Eco-Watch points out that no long-term studies have ever examined the cumulative effect of eating a pesticide-coated apple a day for 20 years.
  • Several large agribusiness companies, including Monsanto and DuPont, produce a type of soybean seed that is resistant to the herbicide dicamba. Dicamba is a pesticide that kills broadleaf plants like milkweed, which are considered weeds in a soybean field but are critically needed by Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. When these companies sell a farmer dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds, the farmer knows he can spray his fields with dicamba and kill the weeds, but not the soybean plants. That’s a winning hand for that farmer, but not for neighboring farms or the greater ecosystem. One lawsuit filed against Monsanto and DuPont (among other defendants) alleges that “dicamba drift” resulting from vaporization and wind kills soybeans and other plants in adjoining farms that were not planted with dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds. Dicamba drift also threatens natural areas like nature preserves, destroying native habitat in the process.
  • Buying organic foods that were not treated with pesticides keeps you and your family from ingesting potentially harmful chemicals. It may also prevent your food purchases from contributing to mass degradation of natural habitats and the resulting loss of plant and animal species.
So what can you do? Read ingredients and ask questions. Find out where your grocer and your restaurant get their beef, chicken, fish, and produce. It will make you a more informed, environmentally conscious consumer and allow you to avoid patronizing harmful sources.
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Losing Our Coral Reefs is Trouble

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Dazzling.” “Spectacular.” “Other worldly.” “Incredible.” Anyone who has been fortunate enough to see a thriving coral reef knows that these are only a few of the superlatives used to describe the sight. The best way to experience the reef is with scuba gear or while snorkeling, but even through a glass bottomed boat a viewer will get a sense of the reef’s spectacle. Coral reefs are clearly among the most amazing natural wonders on earth.

And aside from being beautiful, coral reefs constitute special and irreplaceable ecosystems with almost incalculable benefits to humans, animals, fish and plant life. Consider:

  • 25% of the oceans’ plant and animal life, including 4,000 species of fishes, make coral reefs their home. This is true even though these reefs occupy just 0.2% of the ocean floor.
  • The Earth Institute at Columbia University tells us coral reefs generate annual global economic value of $375 billion, including food and other resources for over 500 million people in 94 countries and territories.
  • These “rainforests of the ocean” contain some 800 kinds of coral and are biologically unique and unlike any other habitat type in the world.

But our planet’s coral reefs are in serious jeopardy. According to Voice of America, 75% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened, facing perils from a variety of sources including:

  • Fishing via dynamiting the coral;
  • Overfishing;
  • Coastal development, which causes nutrient runoff via farming, raw sewage and sedimentation;
  • Pollutants resulting in destructive algae blooms that smother the reef; and
  • Climate change. A recent study said virtually all coral reefs would be potentially at the risk of bleaching if global temperatures rose from the atmospheric goal in the Paris Climate Agreement of 1.5 degrees Celsius to the predicted 2 degrees Celsius if no action is taken. 

Please consider volunteering or donating to one or more of the highly effective conservation organizations dedicated (at least in part) to saving coral reefs, including Coral Reef Alliance, the Nature Conservancy and Oceana.

To learn more about this issue, please see the following websites:

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Your Old Stuff and Our Endless Creativity

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

The variety of “things” in our lives that can be made from other things is astonishing. Warm fleece clothing, toys, sunglasses, graduation gowns, belts, bikes, wallets, plain bond paper, backpacks, underclothes, exhibition space and footwear can all be made from recycled materials, and that just the tip of the iceberg.

With the world population producing 1.3 billion tons of waste each year, and each person in the United States accounting for 4.6 pounds of trash every day on average, it is incumbent on all of us not just to recycle, but also to seek out products made from what we and others have discarded, whenever and wherever possible.

For example, my local waste agency accepts used shoes and boots for recycling. From their website: “Shoes in any condition, from new or gently used, to those that are worn, will be accepted. Even those with stains or holes will be accepted. And, the great news is that 95% or more of all the materials collected will be recycled or reused and not only that – you can be a part of this great effort!”

Here are just a few sources and their wares, almost all of which were made from recycled materials:

  • SPLAFF, which makes sandals, belts, bags, wallets and guitar straps;
  • RSVLTS’ list of eco-friendly consumer products, including guitars, furniture, chess sets, purses and sunglasses;
  • Mental Floss’ list of products made from recycled materials, including briefcases, backpacks, clothes, kitchen towels and toys;
  • ROTHY’S, which makes women’s shoes from recycled plastic water bottles, 86% of which normally end up in a landfill or incinerator.

The list above only addresses consumer products; however, industrial recycling and the utility achievable by reusing industrial scrap can make an even greater impact.

For more details on what you can do to recycle your own household or commercial refuse, please check out the following companies (there are many others) and the recycling services they make available:

Bottom line is, whenever possible, buy products that are made from the largest percentage of recycled materials, and remember, recycle your own stuff.

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Seal Your Driveway, Why Not?

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Your driveway has cracks, it’s old looking and unquestionably requires work. Someone leaves a pamphlet in your mailbox or phones you and offers to seal your driveway to make it beautiful and successfully repair it. Further, the price is right, jut a few hundred dollars. It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

My advice? Refuse it! Here’s the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) summary about the coal tar derived material typically used as a driveway sealer, but I commend the entire article to you here.

Coal-tar-based sealcoat—a product marketed to protect and beautify asphalt pavement—is a potent source of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to air, soils, streams and lakes, and homes. Does its use present a risk to human health?” The is answer is a resounding YES!

Some of the brands of sealants contain as much as 35% coal tar, a known carcinogen according to the National Toxicology Program. It’s no surprise that the industry group, Pavement Coatings Technology Council strongly denies the carcinogenic properties found by the USGS and other researchers. A water quality scientist of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, has said “we have done rigorous, scientific surveys and analyses showing coal tar sealants are a major sources of PAHs in the environment”. Coal tar is banned in several places, including my home town, Highland Park, IL

An excellent analysis and comparison of industry claims with a side by side refutation is available here.

Far less toxic alternatives are available: This is from N. Y. State’s Department of Conservation:

Asphalt based sealers are available which contain 1,000 times less PAH than coal tar sealers. Choose an asphalt-based sealer, whether you are hiring someone, or doing the job yourself. If you are hiring a professional to seal your driveway: Ask the contractor what type of sealers they use. The contractor should be able to tell you whether their product is coal tar or asphalt-based. If your contractor is unable to tell you what is in their sealer, or you would like to verify their answer, request the safety data sheet on their product. If the safety data references chemical abstract service (CAS) numbers 65996-93-2, 65996-89-6, or 8007-45-2, the sealer contains coal tar. If any of the material references the words “coal tar,” “refined coal tar,” “coal tar pitch volatiles,” “RT-12,” “tar” or similar terms the sealer contains coal tar.”

The irony of using coal tar sealants is that they don’t really work. Sure, for some weeks your driveway looks new, but it won’t be long before that completely black appearance is gone and it appears much as it did before the application, including unhealed cracks. In other words its value is cosmetic. Meanwhile the carcinogens run from your driveway to surrounding habitat, including your home.

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Cats and Rats, an Urban Legend

This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann

Rats, the very word sends shivers up the spines of many. And well it should as rats are major disease carriers responsive for a host of illnesses including plague and rat-bite fever. When city dwellers observe rats feeding on trash in back alleys the call is heard loud and determined, “bring in those feral cats and control these rats”.

A recent article appeared in a local Chicago publication, “dna info” entitled Rat-Packed Chicago Has 3-Month Waitlist For Feral Cats As Demand ‘Explodes’. At first glance one would think YES!, cats are the perfect predator to rid us of those detested rats. But do they? And if so is the solution worse than the problem?

The extensive scientific literature on the subject refutes the claim that cats are effective rat predators. One example from a peer-reviewed study in the scientific journal Plos/One, includes the following paragraph. Typical of many science based papers the entire article is lengthy and esoteric, so I’ve excerpted a short section:

Studies of house cat predatory behavior in Baltimore have supported numerous other reports [10], [26] that suggested cats only occasionally killed rats and rarely have a numerical impact on the prey population, (emphasis mine) though they can qualitatively affect its structure. Jackson [16] found that Norway rats were food items in only 6.7% of feral cat feces. He also reported that there was no demonstrable relationship between the frequency of cat predation and the abundance of either rats or cats in the alleys. Childs [20], [27] also observed that cat predation on Norway rats was rare — only witnessing five attacks in more than 900 hours of observation. (Please write me directly for the actual scientific articles referenced by the names or numbers shown above).

We’re left with anecdotal evidence and opinions like “Once we brought the cats in the rats disappeared”. Rats are cagey beasts, acclimate to the presence of cats and move to a safer location, an alley distant from the cat colony. The rats may scurry away, but as adults are rarely predated by cats. The safest and surest way to eliminate the rat problem is to eliminate their food. Use rat-proof garbage cans with effective self-closing lids.

Meanwhile our nation’s cats, an estimated 100 million feral and 50 million owned but free-roaming, are seriously assailing human health. Cats are the only source of toxoplasmosis, a devastating parasite to pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. They are also the primary domestic vector for rabies, and highly allergenic to many. As to the nation’s wildlife, outdoor cats are responsible for killing approximately 2.4 billion birds and 12.5 billion small mammals annually.

For a highly informative dialogue on the problem of our nations abundant cat population, I strongly commend this link to your reading.

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Take Action to Oppose Illinois SB641 – Public Financing of Trap, Neuter & Release of Feral Cats

Statement Prepared by Donnie Dann

I am asking you to contact your Illinois State Senator to oppose Senate Bill 641 (SB641). This should be done before the end of April, 2017.

SB641 authorizes taxpayer funding for a method of feral cat management called Trap, Neuter & Return (TNR). There are many flaws with this proposed law. An incomplete list includes:

  1. TNR does not work. TNR is a scientifically discredited effort to reduce the ever-expanding outdoor cat populations estimated at 60 million to 100 million and counting. You can read the scientific evidence debunking this method here.
  2. SB641 does not provide the kind of comprehensive approach to adequately address the issue in Illinois. A piecemeal approach is unlikely to solve the problem.
  3. The bill subsidizes “caretakers” of feral cat colonies. These caretakers are not required to pay licensing fees, assume ownership responsibilities or be accountable to the law’s requirements such as re-catching for re-vaccination, etc.
  4. The bill draws its funds from existing licensing fees which were originally intended specifically to help low income pet owners and seniors defray the cost of vaccinating and spaying/neutering their indoor house pets.

More information:

Illinois convened a feral cat task force. After 2 productive meetings and a request for additional time to formulate a useful policy, the task force was abandoned and the Senate committee moved forward with its bill.

Witness slips (public testimony) submitted to the Senate committee ran 3:2 against the bill, but the committee elected to move this forward to a full Senate vote.

The Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois Ornithological Society, Illinois Environmental Council, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club of Illinois, Openlands, Bird Conservation Network, Wildlife Society and Wildlife Veterinarians all oppose this bill.

This is an Illinois Senate Bill. Please contact your state senator immediately.  Please call, give your name, address and that you’re a constituent asking the senator to vote NO on SB 641, a bad bill.  It would be fine to leave a voice mail message.

Northern Illinois State Senators include:

  • Dan McConchie, District 26 (224) 662-4544
  • Terry Link District 30 (847) 821-1811
  • Julie Morrison 29th district (847) 945-5200
  • Melinda Bush 31st district (847) 548-5631
  • Tom Rooney 27th district (847) 776-1490
  • Laura Murphy 28th District (847) 718-1110

More information: Please contact Donnie Dann (847) 266-2222