Raptor Education Foundation Introduction
Promoting Environmental Literacy
Governor’s Apology REF’s Lawsuit Against DMV Bureaucrats Deny Soldiers Bald Eagle Visit
NEWS RELEASE August 22, 2008
For more information, contact Steve Houston at 314-721-2828. Raptor Education Foundation Moving Headquarters to THF Realtys Prairie Center in Brighton, Co.
Plans Underway for $1 Million Office & Raptor Environment Resource Center
BRIGHTON, COLO. Fittingly, one of Colorados largest mix-use developments, created to co-exist with its natural environs, will soon be home to a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of raptors. The Raptor Education Foundation (REF) has selected THF Realtys 1,984-acre Prairie Center in Brighton, Colo. as its new headquarters. REF is planning an expansion that will create a $1 million office and a raptor environmental resource center that will further the reputation of Brighton as the City of Eagles. The $500 million Prairie Center project is programmed to host three million square feet of retail; 4,500 detached homes, condominiums and apartments; a hotel complex and an office development with the first building planned for medical services.
Its interesting how things work out. We were originally very concerned about Prairie Center and its impact on eagle habitat, said Peter Reshetniak, REF director. But THF exceeded our expectations to ensure the development meshed with the surrounding environment. Now we will use its great location and preserved ecosystem to educate the public about the wonders of raptors.
Since 1980, REF has been Colorados leading advocate for raptors, birds of prey with hooked bills that hunt with their talons. The classification includes eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures, condors, kites, harriers and ospreys.
Development thrives when it creatively connects with the community its serves, said Michael Staenberg, president of THF. Our investment in maintaining the eagle habitat gives Prairie Center a distinctive identity that will endure. One of Prairie Centers signature landmarks is a 3,000-pound bronze sculpture of a majestic eagle with a 22-foot wingspan landing on a tree branch.
As it began site preparation for Prairie Center in 2004, THF went to great lengths to help sustain and support the growing bald eagle population along Colorados Front Range. THF retained Boulder, Colo.-based natural resource management consulting firm LREP Inc. to study the eagles food supply. The firm has also provided funding for the Eagle Watch program conducted by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory to monitor nesting eagles, including a pair that successfully raised a brood at Prairie Centers Barr Lake as the development was underway. Eagles have nested at Barr Lake State Park for 21 years the home of the longest known nesting spot in Colorado for bald eagles.
THF also worked with wildlife specialists to create a 160-acre Regional Wildlife Sanctuary on the site with adjacent developments to support eagles and other wildlife. The land hosts bodies of water, including the Lutz Reservoir. It will be donated to the city of Brighton along with another 90 acres to create a community park and future site for a school.
REF Will Create Raptor Environmental Resource Center
For 25 years, REF has been based at 21901 E. Hampden Ave. in the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colo. It will move to a temporary home at Prairie Center while THF plans the design and construction of a 14,500-square-foot permanent headquarters and raptor environmental resource center. The space will allow REF to host its first nature education center where school children and the public can learn more about raptors. The facility hopes to house up to 50 raptors.
Other highlights of the facility include Eagles Landing, that will utilize a portion of a 65-acre tract as an interpretive area detailing facts about the ecosystem. It will include an outdoor amphitheater where the wonders of raptors and their flight will be demonstrated.
A later phase will create Eagle World International which aspires to present the worlds only complete collection of the eagle species approximately 70 in all.
The mayor and city council of Brighton are very excited by this opportunity, said John Bramble, Brighton city manager. The new REF facilities will demonstrate to visitors the importance of our environment and educate them about eagles and other raptors and their importance in the ecosystem. In time, the REF programs will make Prairie Center and the Brighton community a destination point for Colorado residents and tourists worldwide.
Bramble adds that the Brighton Legacy Foundation is planning to contribute $25,000 to the new REF headquarters.
Meanwhile, THF continues to advance Phase I of the master-planned development which includes a 950,000-square-foot power center. It has also initiated Phase II which will be anchored by a J.C. Penney slated to debut in spring 2009.
To date, more than 535,000 square feet of retail is in place, including the first SuperTarget, Home Depot and Kohls in the northeast Denver trade area. Other firsts for the trade area include Dicks Sporting Goods, which opened this summer, and Michael’s Arts and Crafts, which will open this fall. New tenants planning to open stores include Buffalo Wild Wings and McDonalds. All join a tenant lineup in place that includes Chilis Restaurant, Famous Footwear, PetSmart, Office Depot, Taco Bell, Dollar Tree, Chick-Fil-A, GNC, Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, Quizno’s, Subway, Verizon, Elite Nails and Prairie Center Dental Care. The shopping center also offers a 65,000-square-foot pedestrian-oriented retail center called the Village Area.
Phases III and IV of Prairie Center are programmed to include a power/entertainment center totaling approximately 600,000 square feet. Future phases are in the planning stage.
Founded in 1991 by Michael Staenberg and E. Stanley Kroenke, St. Louis-based THF develops and manages office, retail and residential property. The firm has a portfolio valued in excess of $2 billion, including more than 24 million square feet of commercial space in 20 states.
Move Donations -end
Denver, June 22, 2004:
Government Bureaucrats Deny Americas Soldiers a Visit from Their National Symbol
Americas defenders, its fighting men and women, are being denied a visit from their national symbol,
the bald eagle, at the annual Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA) convention in
Las Vegas next month.
The Raptor Education Foundation did not receive a response from Nevada bureaucrats or those at
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service when repeatedly requesting an explanation as to why a bald eagle
was permitted to visit the Crystal Cathedral Church in California, and a Humane Society fund raiser
at the Washington State Convention center in Seattle. And yet, the national bird is not being allowed
to visit Americas soldiers at their convention this July.
Officials in Nevada stated that REFs permits do not allow such a use of the peoples eagle, yet
identical visits have occurred at Eagle Scout Courts of Honor for the last 24 years.
Quoting from REFs letter to Nevada officials:
It is my understanding that permits such as ours, are to be applied uniformly across America.
It is doubtful that the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center had a bald eagle at either event with
direct ties to their rehabilitation mission or their educational mission should they have one, or
the direct interests of the Service. Both events were designed to promote fund-raising for ARRC
and/or the Humane Society, directly or indirectly through the correlative benefits of promotional
exposure on a regional or national basis. The Crystal Cathedral appearance is quite tenuous as it
also appears to endorse a particular religious denomination, yet Region 1 (USFWS) obviously
did not object. I must therefore assume that waivers or other types of discriminatory judgments
of some kind were provided for these non-typical appearances.
Furthermore, our appearance at the NCOA is our ENDORSEMENT of particular interest to all of
those who value Americas freedoms and values represented by the living national symbol of these
United States, the bald eagle, and defended to the death if required by the honorable and courageous
men and women in our Armed Forces. Those values include the publics interest in funding the
operations of entities such as yours, ours, and the USFWS who provide resource protection for
Americas national patrimony.
I would think that this type of endorsement would be a positive one, and further our mission, a well
as that of the Service and your organization. Denying this type of endorsement is a slap in the face
of the men and women who risk their lives to protect those values and freedoms that all of us enjoy.
In todays times when Americans in any uniformed service preserving our countrys resources and
values (including natural resources) are under attack by a variety of extremist groups, those of us
with a common goal should work to support each other. No one organization/individual should
be favored over another according to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or be
subjected to arbitrary, capricious, or uninformed decision-making.
REF officials were hoping that common sense could resolve the situation in time for them to attend the convention.
But it now appears that the brave members of the NCOA will be denied the rare opportunity to meet the bird
which represents the very country they are defending.
REF President Peter Reshetniak says, The bald eagle is the peoples living national symbol, and to deny
Americas soldiers the right to see this magnificent creature up close and in person makes no sense whatsoever.
Is the congregation at the Crystal Cathedral more deserving than the warriors who protect Americas rights?
Is a fund raiser for the Humane Society more appropriate a place for a bald eagle than the annual celebration
of the very finest of Americas Armed Forces? Our nations military families and personnel are facing difficult
times; they should be allowed the inspiration of a face-to-face meeting with their national symbol, while learning
about its glorious history at the same time.”
Unfortunately for them, Nevada wildlife officials disagree.
The Raptor Education Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization which promotes
environmental literacy using non-releasable raptors since 1980.
Visit its web site at www.usaref.org for more information.
For more information please contact: Peter Reshetniak 303-898-4295
Denver, June 6, 2003
Appellate Court Finds Department of Motor Vehicles Breached Contract With Small Non-Profit.
In a unanimous three-judge decision released June 5, 2003, a panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Denver District Court in Raptor Education Foundation v. State of Colorado, Colorado Court of Appeals No. 02-CA-162. The Court of Appeals found that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) breached the “Letter of Agreement” between it and the Raptor Education Foundation (REF) when it began selling REF’s “Colorado Respects Wildlife” license plates to non-members of REF. The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court for a determination of the amount of damages to REF caused by the DMV’s breach.
The trial court had previously determined that the DMV (then under the directorship of Aurora-Ruiz Hernandez) had violated REFs constitutional rights to equal protection and issued an Permanent Injunction, requiring the DMV to verify membership in REF before issuing the specialty plates. Despite the constitutional violation, however, the trial court had determined that the “Letter of Agreement” drafted by the DMV and executed by both DMV and REF did not rise to the level of a contract and thus the DMV had not breached any contractual obligations by selling the specialty plates to the general public. The Letter of Agreement was a standard form contract provided by the DMV, and REF was only one of about a dozen non-profit organizations that had similar contracts with the DMV. Others included the Rotary Club, the Masons, the Knights of Columbus, and the Colorado Pioneers.
Despite the trial court’s finding that DMV had violated REFs constitutional rights and despite the issuance of the Injunction, the DMV continued to violate those rights by issuing the specialty plates to the general public for months until the Colorado state legislature passed additional legislation, signed by Governor Owens, directing DMV officials to adhere to the original terms of the Letter of Agreement.
REF President Peter Reshetniak stated, “Although we are, of course, delighted with the decision, we remain baffled and saddened by the route that has brought us here. We never wanted litigation with the State. Our contract with the State was a win-win. We could raise awareness of our organization and the State could raise badly needed extra revenue from our members. For reasons we never understood, commencing in April of 2000, the DMV chose an irrational course that led us here. Even after the trial court found the DMV was violating the constitutional rights of REF and other charities, the DMV continued to issue specialty plates to the general public. We told the State if it would simply obey the Injunction, we would waive our damages and not appeal the contract issue. The DMV, however, remained on the litigation path and we had no choice but to respond in kind. Now the State will have to repay all the illegal profits it made off our plate. Unfortunately for us, what we will be able to recover is only a small portion of our actual damages.”
DMVs breach of contract cost REF hundreds of thousands of dollars while gaining at least $50,000 in revenues for the state treasury, and forced the small, environmental non-profit to expend further funds in taking DMV to court.
A 2002 performance audit by the Colorado State Auditor of DMV discovered more than $500,000 unaccounted for in Fiscal year 2001 and over $200,000 unaccounted for in Fiscal year 2000. Ms. Hernandez is no longer Director of the Motor Vehicle Business Group, however, she is still at DMV with a salary in excess of $100,000 per annum.
For more information contact: Peter Reshetniak,
REF’s New Book
Review from Brian Millsap, President, Raptor Research Foundation
Brian A. Millsap, President
March 1, 2003
It has been my pleasure to review your coloring book Raptors: The Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Owls of North America. I should point out from the outset that these are my comments, and not official comments of Raptor Research Foundation (RRF). Nevertheless, Im proud to be able to offer you these personal observations in my capacity as President of RRF.
First, I want to congratulate you and the artist on a truly fantastic coloring book. Although Im not expert on coloring books per se, my 10 year-old daughter is, and she was pretty impressed. What impressed me was the taxonomic scope of the book this truly is a full representation of the raptors of North America. Too many childrens nature books portray just a few of the more common species, assuming kids wont be interested in the rarer stuff they cant see around the house. Unfortunately, that approach fails to instill an appreciation for the full range of diversity that exists in nature, an appreciation we should be fostering at an early age. This is the only childrens book Ive seen that does a comprehensive job portraying the richness and diversity of birds of prey that exist in North America.
The taxonomic scope is not the only aspect that impressed me, however. You also have done a very good job picking interesting tidbits to highlight in the species accounts, and to the extent of my knowledge, your portrayals are accurate. It is hard to know what to stress in these short accounts, but with the exception of a few species, I think you pick the best and most interesting stories to tell. The few species where you might consider modifying in future revisions are the bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite, merlin, and barn owl. In the bald eagle account, Id suggest at least mentioning this species fantastic recovery from population lows caused by DDT. With regard to swallow-tailed kites, recent research has shown that most US birds gather in a few large staging areas in Florida before departing the US for wintering areas in Brazil, where the entire US population overwinters in a few large night roosts in the Pantanal. In the merlin account, include dragonflies in the prey list (many merlins Ive caught for banding while on migration along the Atlantic Coast were covered with the dragonfly remains!). Finally, in the barn owl account, you might note that in the west, particularly northern Colorado, the species digs burrows for nesting in stream banks to help protect it from the extremes of the weather. These comments arent meant to detract from the excellent work youve done in the existing accounts. As it stands, collectively the book paints an important story of ecological diversity.
As a scientist, this is certainly the kind of coloring book Id be happy to give my kids. And, as a raptor biologist, Id be proud to give it to a colleagues kids. You and Don Malick have a childrens book to be proud of. Congratulations!