Earlier this week Kirsten and I were on our way from Cooke City, MT to Red Lodge via the incomparable Bear Tooth highway. A cold front had come through several days before and clouds were still hanging low and cold over the peaks. For two days, in the second week in June, the just opened high mountain road was closed again for blowing snow and ice.
Sudden drop from the top
I was in line waiting to use a Forest Service restroom when I asked a woman waiting in line with me if she had come from over the summit. With abundant animation she replied in the affirmative. “I am from Manitoba where it is so flat you can watch your dog run away from home for three days,” she said. “I know flat and let me tell you, this place is NOT flat! Add to that you can’t see twenty feet in the fog up there and I mean it when I tell you I need to use a rest room.” Continue reading →
Last night Kirsten and went to a lecture by Michael Soule’, father of the conservation biology movement. I credit Soule for adding value back to his science of ecology by doing something about it, including founding the Wildlands Network to create wildlife corridors that enable adequate migration to protect species’ necessary genetic diversity.
The fight to conserve the environment is a never ending battle but one Soule’, quoting the Dalai Lama, reminds us to never give up on. Soule’ mentioned it is tougher now because with the advent of smart phones people read less. Conservation can be a bit complex but it is hard to get such ideas across in a tweet. Yet he did have a success story. Our friend Mary Ellen Hannibal’s recent book, The Spine of the Continent, while not quite on best seller lists was nonetheless read by Jody Allen, billionaire Paul Allen’s sister and Ms. Allen is perhaps interested in pointing some money in the direction of Wildlands Network. Soule was obviously thrilled.
We fortuitously met Mary Ellen when she was researching the book, camping with her and other friends of the Grand Canyon Trust in the high forests of southern Utah. It will be fun to watch how any contribution Wildlands Network might get as a result of Mary Ellen’s book works out. I’ll keep an eye out.
Spring is here and my wife, Kirsten, and I are poking our heads out more and looking into environmental issues. In fact, it has felt like March in Utah since early February and it is good to get out. In addition my son, Nick, has been interning for Wild Utah Project and WildEarth Guardians, both environmental agencies. Kirsten hiked the Calf Creek Falls trail on Monday with her sister and two nephews strapped to their backs. Nick made a run down to Moab a couple of weeks ago to visit with the Forest Service, Wild Utah Project and the Grand Canyon Trust about exotic mountain goats recently plunked down on the La Sals.
Kirsten was impressed at the amount of beaver activity in the stream along her hike. Beaver are, of course, the original and best stream managers. For years the folks at Grand Canyon Trust have been trying to get beaver re-introduced on Boulder Mountain and the surrounding forests. But ranchers think beavers somehow steal water and the Garfield County Commissioners, all ranchers, wrote a letter of protest to the Forest Service vehemently protesting any beaver re-intoduction in their county. County commissioners have amazing amount of political clout and the Forest Service folks deny them at risk of their jobs. So Kirsten was surprised to see so much beaver activity. She described dam after dam, wide and open and lush riparian areas big enough that migrating ducks were landing. Our guess is that the BLM, the land managers in this case, have too much pressure from the national public at this popular spot to allow the commissioners to have their way. Much like the forests around the Wasatch Front do not allow livestock grazing because the public would never put up with the damage.
Nick went down to Moab to visit with the Forest Service about the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ (DWR) introduction of mountain goats on to the La Sal Mountains last fall. There were no mountain goats in Utah when the pioneers arrived, and all current populations in the state were transplanted from other places. The La Sal’s have special wilderness zones established for scientists, like those at Wild Utah Project, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Forest Service, to study the effects of climate change. Goats, as we know, eat everything and the scientists are duly concerned. DWR is often accused of “trophy farming” and put the goats up on the mountain in defiance of current memorandums of understanding with other existing land management agencies, such as the Forest Service, in a unilateral decision to please hunters, their primary special interest constituency.
More on captured agencies and these issues as the year unfolds.