Alameda resident Leora Feeney is one of three finalists in KTVU’s annual Cox Conserves Heroes contest. KTVU, owned by Cox Media, is partnering with The Trust for Public Land to honor local environmental activists for their work and inspire others. The winner will be determined through online voting that is under way now through Sept. 24.
KTVU will donate $10,000 to the nonprofit of the winner’s choice. Feeney’s choice will be the Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge, a committee of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Feeney hopes that some of the money will go toward a video camera system on the perimeter of the Least Tern nesting area that would help with monitoring activity and public education. The Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge helps maintain the site during the non-nesting season and conducts educational programs in schools.
You can vote for Feeney, and support wildlife refuge work, by going to KTVU's Cox Conserves Heroes page and clicking on the headline ***Vote now through September 24***.
Feeney first got involved with the Least Terns at Alameda Point in the 1980s when it was still an active naval air station. She was managing a small California Least Tern colony on the Oakland Airport property when she offered to help the Navy’s biologist overseeing the recently established tern colony at the Navy base.
When the announcement came down in 1993 that the base was closing, Feeney helped organize a symposium at the College of Alameda on “Alameda Naval Air Station’s Natural Resources and Base Closure.” This symposium was instrumental in laying the groundwork for setting aside over 500 acres for a wildlife refuge in the 1996 Community Reuse Plan.
The Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge became an official committee of the Golden Gate Audubon Society in 1997, the same year that Navy lowered the flag for the last time. She has been working to protect the terns ever since. She, along with other experienced birders, began doing twice-monthly bird surveys on the refuge in 2004, which she shares with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Navy. One object of the surveys is to document predators of the Least Tern.
To date, Feeney has seen over 176 different species of birds on the refuge. About 26 of these species, according to Feeney, have been documented as breeding on the refuge. One of her most unusual sightings was of a Golden Eagle that came in one spring to eat goslings. “When the eagle was hunting at the refuge, adult geese would be out on the Bay waters,” Feeney said. “That was our clue to look for the eagle.”
The wildlife refuge property is slated for transfer to the US Department of Veterans Affairs next year.
Related reading and video: "Protecting the California Least Terns at the Alameda Point Wildlife Refuge," on the Alameda Point Environmental Report.