Federal agency razes Hadley barn where swallows nested

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  • The former Bri-Mar Stable barn on Moody Bridge Road in Hadley is razed on Monday. The barn, now part of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, had been a nesting site for barn swallows. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The former Bri-Mar Stable barn on Moody Bridge Road in Hadley is razed on Monday. The barn, now part of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, had been a nesting site for barn swallows. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The former Bri-Mar Stables barn on Moody Bridge Road in Hadley is razed on Monday. The barn, now part of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, had been a nesting site for barn swallows. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2020 11:04:14 PM
Modified: 1/6/2020 11:03:42 PM

HADLEY — A large barn at the center of a debate between advocates hoping to preserve it as a continued spring and summer nesting site for barn swallows and officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife concerned about the building’s safety was demolished Monday.

About a month after announcing the building would be coming down, workers were removing it from the Moody Bridge Road site of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

For those who wanted to save and rehabilitate the structure, organized as Save our Swallows, the barn has been an important legacy habitat, with a growing number of barn swallows nesting inside the large building, Mara Silver, a co-founder of the group, said. 

“We, and hundreds of taxpayers who have supported conservation of the Bri-Mar Stable, are disgusted that the nation’s top wildlife agency has chosen to eliminate the habitat of the largest known barn swallow colony in Massachusetts, and have repeatedly violated federal environmental laws and regulations to do so,” Silver said in a statement.

Silver, an ornithologist specializing in swallows, added that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consistently ignored expert opinions of scientists, as well as the testimony, letters and phone calls of taxpayers.

“Hell-bent on destroying wildlife habitat, they also refused the offer of private donations to repair and maintain the stable into the future. This, in spite of news stories every day reporting on the urgent need to conserve native species in light of climate change and other threats to the environment,” Silver said.

In a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI, as part of an Environmental Assessment, the agency determined that the 22,500-square foot, two-story building was a deteriorating structure beyond repair and posed a major safety threat to refuge staff and visitors, along with the barn swallows. 

Andrew French, manager of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, said at the time that the agency was worried about a “catastrophic collapse” of the barn, which was once the stable building at the Bri-Mar farm.

“It just makes sense to do what we’re doing, and this is not in any way, shape or form bringing an end to swallows,” French said.

A 30-day public review of the decision took place under the National Environmental Policy Act and ended last week.

French has said there are other options for the birds’ nesting, such as using the nearby hot walker building, or boathouse, where seven pairs of barn swallows nested in 2019.




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