The aerial invasion over Gilpin County

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Concerns for Our Wildlife and Habitat

By Nahanni Freeman

I first moved to Gilpin County in 1975, attending Clark Elementary School and living in Black Hawk. After college, I moved back to my hometown 21 years ago, and have embraced the natural habitat that we are able to enjoy in this beautiful community. As noted by many other Gilpin residents, I have been disturbed and angered by the change to our environment that has resulted from the modification of flight patterns initiated by the FAA’s Denver Metroplex plan. In our community, we value the preservation of our historical heritage, our small town distinctives, and our engagement with nature and wildlife. The impact of the radically increased noise pollution on wildlife and human beings is significant. Since 1971, there have been over 500 academic publications that explore the impact of urban ecology. Noise pollution has been shown to impact wildlife in many ways that interfere with the acoustic relationships between species and their environment, including territory defense, finding prey, alarm calls, orientation, mating, and care for offspring (de Vincenzi et al., 2021). A recent publication in the academic journal Wildlife Biology explored the functional habitat loss in white tailed deer that occurred in response to human caused (anthropogenic) noise (Drolet, Dussault & Cote, 2016). Likewise, a recent publication in the Journal of Ornithology summarizes in their literature review the prevalence of how noise can impact many species of birds, increasing vigilance and stress, decreasing foraging, and leading to possible decreases in reproductive success (Walthers & Barber, 2020). This is particularly concerning in light of the global decrease in bird populations. Noise pollution has been shown to alter immune responses in humans, whales, fish, birds, and primates, and even after habituation to the noise occurs, these stress responses continue.

It is important to consider the sublethal consequences of exposure to anthropogenic noise. The invasion of the FAA into our habitat has the potential to impact many biological and ecological responses for vertebrates, including metabolism, reproduction, nutrition, communication, locomotion and disease (Birnie-Gauvin et al., 2016). As reported in the Journal of Environmental Reviews, human-caused noise from traffic has been shown to alter the production of stress hormones, such as corticosterone and glucocorticoids, in some species of sparrows and squirrels.

Humans are certainly not immune to the negative health impacts of chronic noise invasion. For example, traffic noise has been shown to be associated with increased stress reactions in the human body, including a neuroendocrine response that can alter brain structures over time (Dzhambov et al, 2019). Over sixty years of research in the field of psychology has demonstrated the relationship between anger and a readiness for aggression, and exposure to environmental noise.

Unlike the author of a previous letter to the editor, I do not concur that we should adopt a position of learned helplessness in response to this aerial menace. This is not a legal matter—it is a political matter that may very much relate to environmental classism. Residents who are concerned about the FAA’s aerial assault over Gilpin County should contact their representatives to express their concerns, including Senator Hickenlooper, Senator Bennet, and Congressman Neguse.

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