Tulsa Homeowners Argue Church's Expansion Plan Puts Owls At Risk

Monday, June 27th 2016, 10:55 pm
By: News On 6

Some midtown Tulsa homeowners say plans to build a new church parking lot will put owls and their young at risk.

There are laws that could stop the construction before it starts, and the homeowners hope city representatives will stand with them and block the construction from happening.

Owl advocates say they understand the church is growing, but where it wants to expand is the owls’ turf and should be left alone.

"It’s like cutting down part of their house or something," said Barred Owls of Midtown founder, Jennifer Harmon.

She fears a plan to level homes and trees for a church's new 46-space parking lot will make the owls even harder to find.

3/24/2016 Related Story: Owls Nest In Midtown Tulsa Again While World Watches

"It's their turf. And right now, they've moved three owlets this year. They've moved them right next to where they want to demolish the trees and the house," Harmon said.

Builders hope to get zoning clearance from the city to tear down three duplexes, but Harmon said the owls are protected species, so the builders plan can't work.

Harmon said, "We have to go downtown and say it's not allowed by right, and, hopefully, the board of adjustment will see it our way."

Oklahoma Game Warden Carlos Gomez said birds of prey are state and federally protected, but, “We interpret the law to really imply that when the youngsters are in the nest and unable to fly that's when they are protected," he said.

Gomez said when owls are learning to fly they hop from tree to tree.

Over time they take flight; once that happens, and the nest is empty and the tree can be cut down.

"If they'll just wait long enough for the birds to have a chance, that's just what we're asking for," he said.

We reached out to the builders for comment but haven't heard back.

The city is expected to make a decision at 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.