And he adds that waiting could have serious consequences. We asked whether the birds would just go somewhere else if the Montezuma Refuge continued to deteroriate. "They might not exist at all," Jasikoff says. "They could die. Birds need habitat. It's like people need houses."
Regarding the refuge itself, Jasikoff explains that waiting to repair the damage would result in heavier bills later, when the problem is worse. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you that this one project is the be-all, end-all," he says. "But it's part of a larger effort to fix serious problems. We know it's not cheap, but it's worthwhile."
Before we leave, Jasikoff drives us to several parts of the Refuge that are being expanded. It's a separate project, and we asked how much that one is costing taxpayers. "It's not," he says, smiling. He explains that when possible, the Refuge applies for money collected from "duck stamps," the $15 fee hunters pay to hunt ducks. "We'd rather draw from that fund than go back to taxpayers," Jasikoff says.
On the ride back, he points to a bald eagle circling a section of the Refuge just north of the thruway. He beams with pride in saying that the Refuge is "the single reason that the bald eagle is not gone from western New York entirely. We brought it back." He references the 150,000 visitors and tourists that come to the Refuge annually, taking advantage of free education programs. He talks about the short-eared owl, making a resurgence around here, which he says is a sign the marsh project is already working.
It won't please everyone, but Jasikoff welcomes scrutiny. "Open door," he says. "We're always happy to explain what we do. We expect to be held accountable." There will always be some taxpayers who don't feel it's worth spending any money on bird migration and environmental preservation. Ultimately, the earth-moving projects are funded by Congress. Jasikoff is carrying out the mission established by lawmakers. One 13WHAM viewer wrote, "I am all for nature, outdoors, etc., but as the government looks to cut spending, would this money not be better spent somewhere else?" If Congress decides it's a wasteful endeavor, they can halt funding, but there are no signs of that happening any time soon.