Comments closed on Hadley barn demolition decision

  • A barn swallows perches in the second story of a barn at the Fort River Division of the National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Hadley in July 13. The barn is part of the former Bri-Mar Stables.

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2019 3:39:46 PM

HADLEY — A 30-day public review period under the National Environmental Policy Act is underway as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to move forward with plans to tear down a former stable building that has become a popular place for a large colony of barn swallows to nest.

Advocates for preserving the Bri-Mar Stable barn see this review period as a chance for the public and experts to weigh in on the fate of the building, but Andrew French, manager of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, where the building is situated, said Tuesday that there is not an opportunity for additional feedback.

“The 30-day public review period is per service policy,” French said. “The decision was made in the Finding of No Significant Impact.”

In that finding, the agency determined that the 22,500-square foot, two-story building is a deteriorating structure beyond repair and poses a major safety threat to refuge staff and visitors, along with the barn swallows, with 40 pairs using it last summer as a nesting place. This means an environmental analysis and review found that demolition would have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

Still, that is not stopping Save Our Swallows, a group created in 2018 to speak on behalf of the colony of birds that nest in the barn, from encouraging people to get in touch with the federal agency. Co-founder Mara Silver in a statement is urging members of her organization and the public to speak “to the scientific and legal inadequacies of the decision, which the agency will have to address before the decision is final.”

French said people already had 56 days to offer written and oral comments when the Environmental Assessment was presented, and that these were reviewed and responded to.

Once a Finding of No Significant Impact is released, the public is only required to be notified of its availability, French said, and a public review is not required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Nor is the agency required to take further public comment, he said.

No demolition would begin on the building until the review period, which began Dec. 4, is over.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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