Wednesday, March 07, 2007

San Francisco Protects Wild Parrots' Habitat

Board of Supervisors passes ordinance to preserve and replace vital cypress trees

Back in December 2005, IDA joined the effort to help save a grove of Monterey cypress trees in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood because they are a favorite perch of the world-famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. Readers of IDA's eNews will recall that IDA started a second petition recently to support legislation proposed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty to preserve this habitat and ensure that the parrots will have a home on the Greenwich Steps for years to come.

Well over one year later, after a long campaign by many dedicated private citizens, city officials and the Northeast San Francisco Conservancy, we are proud to announce that yesterday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to pass the ordinance protecting the trees! Mark Bittner, the parrots' longtime caretaker who lives next to the cypresses, noted that "the parrots were sitting in those trees squawking at the very moment the legislation passed." Thank you to everyone who signed IDA's petition and asked their family and friends to do the same. More than 1,900 caring people from every corner of the globe showed their support for the parrots by signing on.

IDA presented the results of this petition and the one we started in December 2005 at the Land Use Committee hearing in City Hall on Monday, March 5th. Committee members were impressed that IDA had gathered more than 4,500 signatures in support of protecting the parrots' habitat. The hearing chamber was packed with parrot advocates, many of whom made public statements about how the parrots benefit the people of San Francisco and add to the city's uniqueness. These included Judy Irving (the producer/director of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill") and Mark Bittner (the movie's co-star), Richard Schulke and Christine Garcia (chair and vice-chair of the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare), and IDA spokesperson Mat Thomas (i.e., me), who was also quoted in an ABC7 News story about the parrots. "A key element in this success," said Judy Irving, "was the very visible outpouring of support from all over the globe. We couldn't have done it without IDA."

With Arbor Day coming up on Saturday, March 10th, it's especially fitting that San Francisco has passed this unique ordinance to mandate the pruning and maintenance of the two older cypress trees, plant up to six new parrot-friendly trees, and protect the property owner from legal liability should the dying trees happen to fall before being replaced. Wild parrot flocks now live in such diverse urban environments as Orange County, Calif.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Chicago, Ill.; as well as numerous cities in Great Britain and elsewhere. San Francisco's innovative solution will show other cities faced with similar issues that living harmoniously with urban wildlife benefits everyone -- human and animal alike.

Watch the broadcast television premiere of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" on Tuesday, May 29th at 9:00 pm when it airs on PBS' Independent Lens series. For more information, check local listings for your area.

Or purchase a copy of the film on DVD or VHS, as well as Mark Bittner's best-selling book "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A Love Story...With Wings."