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Birds vs. model aircraft club

Published: April 20, 2016
A model airplane club in North Carolina called the Flying Tigers of Jordan Lake may have to vacate the area they fly aircraft due to the presence of endangered birds. The area is a grass airstrip located in Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.
The birds are red-cockaded woodpeckers, a species that was absent from the area for decades, only to return in October 2015.

The Flying Tigers have been flying their model aircraft in the airstrip since 1991 with permission from the Forestry Service managers. In March, however, the club received a letter notifying them that they had to leave the area within six months.

“I was speechless,” said Alberto Scotti, club president and a professor of marine sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It totally came out of the blue.”

Although there have been complaints over the activity at the field from neighbors, public records from the Forestry Services show that the real reason for the sudden eviction is because of the birds. Although they were once common, the woodpecker population is down 99 percent in North America since the arrival of Europeans. Ever since birdwatchers spotted the woodpeckers in October there has been a push to protect their environment—part of this protection includes getting rid of disruptive activities that might drive the birds away.

The Flying Tigers hosted a "fly-in" on April 17 in the hopes of rallying its members and others in attendance to work to keep the area open for their use. State Senator Valerie Foushee, who attended the rally, said that she hopes a win-win solution can be worked out. “There needs to be a meeting where all the impacted folks sit around the table and work it out,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.”