This is a segment of an article from THE TULSA VOICE.
Potential environmental impact
Eddie Reese, director of Oxley Nature Center, said the potential development would wipe out many smaller residents of the site, including hundreds of arthropod species, ornate turtles and three-toed box turtles, skunks, lizards and several species of snakes.
“All those things that live there now pretty much won’t be able to leave,” he said. “They’re too small, too slow. So they’re not going to make it.”
Flying squirrels, which occupy Oxley Nature Center and Mohawk Park, might also reside in the Turkey Mountain area, Reese said. Unlike the more common fox squirrel, flying squirrels are nocturnal, which makes them particularly vulnerable to development.
“The bulldozers will come in during the daytime and start pushing things around, preparing the ground for development,” Reese said. “… [Flying squirrels will] be holed up in a hollow tree, and they will get pushed over.”
Larger animals like foxes, coyotes and bobcats would be forced into territory already occupied by their counterparts. The reduced hunting and nesting area would also squeeze out Red Tailed Hawks, Screech Owls and other birds.
“[A habitat] can only get so small before some animals have to just leave the area completely,” Reese said. “I don’t know how small that really is for them.”
Jay Pruett, director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma, said such a development would also disturb the surrounding wilderness. Unfamiliar disruptions like automobile noise and nighttime lighting “can make [animals] feel uncomfortable obtaining food or raising young … such that they are not able to do it sufficiently,” Pruett said.
Some species, such as deer, opossums, skunks and raccoons, are relatively adaptable to such interference. Others leave the area in search of friendlier forests, Pruett said.
The details of any development are worth an earnest look because all life is connected, Reese said.
“I think sometimes people think that we don’t really need nature, because we’re separated from it,” Reese said. “… What they forget is that everything is tied together, and when you start taking pieces of that puzzle out, the puzzle starts to fall apart.”
The connections are intricate and hard to overstate. For example, hummingbirds build their nests with silk from spider webs, Reese said.
“If you don’t have spiders … then hummingbirds won’t be making nests,” he said. “They won’t be laying eggs, and before too long, we won’t have any hummingbirds. … Now, how many connections like that are there … that we don’t know about? How is a turtle important; what is it connected to? … How much can you afford to lose?”