Yvonne Baginski: They Paved Paradise

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Joni Mitchell famously sang, "They paved paradise, put up a parking lot." Yvonne Baginski knows just what she was talking about.

For 20 years, I’ve walked a hidden path next to a creek near the Napa airport. For years, these 400 acres of open space were my go-to place when I wanted to be in nature. I’d see hawks and kites hovering, kept an eye out for coyote scat and watched jackrabbits tease my dogs.

Though zoned for industry, these grasslands were mostly untouched. After COVID, it changed. New buildings are now going up each week. Traffic has increased, a gas station took a corner, and now, pizza boxes and coffee cups are snagged on bushes and whipped around by the afternoon wind. Two years ago, coyotes disappeared. Then the rabbits.

With bulldozers scraping grassy fields to dirt, and riparian habitat ripped out to make room for cement, I started bringing bags on my walks. My long grabbers pick up glass and plastic bottles and lots of fast food containers. I fill trash bags weekly.

The hawks are gone. As I walk around those warehouses and office buildings, I see bait stations filled with poisons to annihilate the moles, voles, mice and rats that were the food supply for all those animals. These poison stations are set up so that the rodent goes inside, eats the bait and then takes four days to die.

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The Agricultural Commission found 410 bait stations or rodent traps around 50 buildings. Of the 380 bait stations, 60 were abandoned. Another 25% were mislabeled. These buildings have not only destroyed wildlife habitat, but they continue to kill any animal remnants still hiding to survive. Since the animals die in the fields to be eaten by scavengers, the poison gets transferred to the next species. No one is able to track how many die each day.

Now, when I walk, a growing sadness fills my heart. For 20 years, I had a place where I belonged, just like those hawks, coyotes and rabbits. Now, that place is filling with cement and giant buildings. And for us, there’s no place left to go.

With a Perspective, I’m Yvonne Baginski.

Yvonne Baginski is a Napa-based writer and environmental activist.