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Our View: Bad decision to rid courthouse of birds is hard to swallow

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Placer County is spending $36,000 to keep the swallows out of our Historic Courthouse’s eaves. Rather than welcome the migrating wild birds, which draw thousands of tourists to places like San Juan Capistrano annually, the county is attempting to rid the courthouse of what it sees as pests once and for all. How shortsighted, pennywise and pound-foolish. Auburn is a beautiful and pristine area on the edge of the scenic American River Canyon. Yes, there is wildlife here. Rather than remove the swallows, why not embrace them and use them as a marketing tool? Jim Durfee, Placer County facilities services director, told the Journal this week that the birds mark the sidewalks below with droppings. He also said they attract other pests. “They bring insects including mites,” he said. “And they create droppings that aren’t just an esthetic problem. They can be acidic on metal finishes and require constant cleanup of sidewalks.” That’s true. Wild birds poop, just like any other of Mother Nature’s creatures. But it’s not that big of a deal. Roger Stahle, owner of Wild Bird Station in Auburn, is among those who see more positive qualities in the swallows. “Half the people think they’re really cool,” Stahle said. “Depending upon your perspective, I think they add to the ambiance.” Losing the swallows forever to save a few cleanup hours seems shortsighted. “I think it’s going to take away from the building,” Stahle said. An e-mailer to the Journal agreed. “If Auburn really wants to get on the map, it’s not with this Endurance Capital stuff, it’s with the courthouse swallows. These birds have the potential to bring in national attention. I know people who would travel from all over to witness their return. This is the kind of marketing Auburn needs, not some ego-driven event that kills horses every year. Here is something tied into the most recognizable landmark in town and they are trying their best to destroy a natural tourist attraction.” San Juan Capistrano has made a marketing bonanza out of its returning swallows. They even have a parade celebrating the birds’ return to the historic mission there. While Auburn might never cherish its swallows as San Juan Capistrano does, it should at least tolerate them. There are signs on Lincoln Way that proclaim Auburn is a bird sanctuary. And these swallows are very cool birds. They mate for life and migrate thousands of miles annually. City leaders need to stand up and question the county’s decision to rid the courthouse of the swallows. It’s not in Auburn’s, or the swallows’, long-term best interest. The courthouse is Auburn’s No. 1 icon. Countless tourists marvel at the courthouse when they pass through our community on Interstate 80. The swallows add to the courthouse and to the community. They should be treated as welcome guests, not unwanted pests.