It Bears Repeating

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A bald eagle in Tongass National Forest, Alaska. MAURO TOCCACELI/ALAMY

These are times that test our patience. Obvious, right? So is the subject of this essay. And yet, it bears saying, and repeating, precisely because of the times we find ourselves in. So thanks to Mr. Heacox for saying so and to Yale e360 for publishing it:

Let It Be: Why We Must Save Alaska’s Pristine Tongass Forest

At 17 million acres, Alaska’s Tongass is the largest U.S. national forest and the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Now, the Trump administration wants to resume large-scale logging in the Tongass, one of several initiatives threatening some of Alaska’s wildest lands.

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Fog rises from forest near Ford’s Terror, a narrow fjord in the Tongass. WOLFGANG KAEHLER / LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

When the railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman fell ill from stress and too much work, his doctors recommended that he take a sea cruise. Unable to do anything in a small way, Harriman filled a ship with America’s foremost scientists, artists, and writers, and sailed the coast of Alaska for two months in the summer of 1899.

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A forest view in the Tongass, the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. WOLFGANG KAEHLER / LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

The expedition, which also included the renowned preservationists John Muir and George Bird Grinnell, found two Alaskas wherever they went, one for the taking, one for the saving. Each at odds with the other. Foremost among the places for saving was the great coastal rainforest of the Southeast Alaska panhandle, a wondrous world of mountains, ice fields, tidewater glaciers, rock-ribbed fjords, coastal brown bears, bald eagles, and 11,000 miles of shoreline.

Eight years later, in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt took a bold step in that direction by creating the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. Today, the Tongass contains two national monuments and 19 designated wilderness areas. It also has countless undammed rivers and streams, and some of the world’s last great runs of wild Pacific salmon. Continue reading

Camera Trap Treasure

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A black bear mother with three cubs. Photo © TNC

Camera traps have proven valuable in the work we have been doing in Belize, India and elsewhere in the wilderness areas of the developing world. But equally important are the photos captured in areas closer to urban settlements. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s publication of these photos with the article below:

As a Nature Conservancy forester in Pennsylvania, Mike Eckley spends a lot of time assessing the health of woodlands. That means he spends as much time thinking about white-tailed deer as he does trees.

Many conservation biologists consider over-abundant deer to be an even bigger threat to eastern forests than climate change. Deer can fundamentally change the forest ecosystem, threatening everything from rare wildflowers to migratory songbirds. These deer also can cause deadly vehicle collisions, increase risk of Lyme disease, and cause significant agricultural and property damage.

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Two white-tailed deer boxing. Photo © TNC

Eckley educates hunting clubs and landowners on deer management issues, and recently co-edited a book on the topic. He also works to make sure the deer herd is healthy on Conservancy projects like the West Branch Forest Preserve, a 3,000-acre preserve in north central Pennsylvania. Continue reading

A Visual Requiem, And A Call For Quiet Grace At The Grand Canyon

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In a merged image, the photographer Peter McBride captured a vision of the Grand Canyon choked by noise and exhaust. Photograph by Pete McBride

Noise pollution was the topic of several of the first posts on this platform when we started it in 2011, and has been a persistent theme ever since then. We especially appreciate those related to noise in wilderness areas, so thanks to Nick Paumgarten for this story:

The Grand Canyon Needs to Be Saved By Every Generation

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Hiking in the Grand Canyon can be a perilous pursuit. Photograph by Pete McBride

Three years ago, in the course of thirteen months, the photographer Peter McBride and the writer Kevin Fedarko hiked from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other. They did it in eight sections, mainly so that McBride could shoot in different seasons. In all, it took them seventy-one days to cover two hundred and seventy-seven river miles and some eight hundred shoe-leather miles, through some of the continent’s roughest hiking terrain—“a whole lot of scratching around the rock puzzles in that giant abyss,” as McBride put it recently.

Before they set off, the Grand Canyon had been hiked nose to tail only nine times in recorded history. There is also a handful of obsessives who have chipped away at it, piece by piece, in the course of decades. “Maybe some crazy ancestral Puebloan did the whole thing, but that wouldn’t make logical sense—they wouldn’t have had any reason to,” McBride said.

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 panoramic view of the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado. Photograph by Pete McBride

McBride, a native Coloradan who shoots for National Geographic, has been documenting the Colorado River for a decade, sometimes from a perch in an ultralight aircraft. Fedarko, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, has guided on the river and is the author of “The Emerald Mile,” an account (with many historical tributaries) of a harrowing speed run of the Grand in a dory during the biggest flood in generations. (As it happens, Kenton Grua, the boatman in the book, was also the first person to walk the canyon, in 1976.) McBride and Fedarko have both become persistent, ardent advocates for preserving the place, in all its spellbinding, inhospitable glory, in abidance with Teddy Roosevelt’s famous dictum, issued during his one visit, in 1903: “Leave it as it is. Man cannot improve on it; not a bit.” Still, this was the first time, and surely the last, that either of them had tried to walk it. Continue reading

Wilderness, Massive Infrastructure Projects & Changing Global Norms

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Construction of the second phase of the Chinese-financed Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya crosses through Nairobi National Park, as pictured here in June. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to William Laurance for this informative opinion essay that gives a bit of hope for wilderness preservation:

Is the Global Era of Massive Infrastructure Projects Coming to an End?

The world’s wild places have been badly carved up by decades of roadbuilding, dam construction, energy exploitation, and other megaprojects. Now, as the financial community, environmental groups, and local citizens increasingly oppose big infrastructure development, the tide of environmental destruction may be turning.

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Malaysia’s former Prime Minster Najib Razak, third from left, looks at a model of the China-backed East Coast Rail Link in 2017. Malaysia has since canceled the project due to mounting costs. AP PHOTO

We are living in the most explosive era of infrastructure expansion in human history. To meet the United Nations’ development goals, we would need to invest tens of trillions of dollars in new roads, railways, energy ventures, ports, and other projects by 2030 — dramatically amplifying an infrastructure tsunami that is already shattering the world’s biologically richest ecosystems. But this great wave of infrastructure development is suddenly looking shaky — and it might just be the best outcome for nature and humanity alike. Continue reading

Victory Favoring Earth, We Hope

Lisa Friedman appears twice on today’s landing page of the newspaper she works for, once as co-host on a video, below, about Alaska; and again as host of an equally important story in the form of an interview, also captured on this video titled Jerry Brown on How to Fix Global Warming.

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How can policymakers fight climate change in the face of political headwinds? Gov. Jerry Brown of California addresses that question at ClimateTECH, a conference from The New York Times, in a conversation with Thomas L. Friedman. By THE NEW YORK TIMES on Publish DateNovember 29, 2017. Photo by Friedemann Vogel/European Pressphoto Agency.  Watch in Times Video »

Walking In Wildness, For The Sake Of The World

PreservationThis book to the left, first published the year I was born, was always on the coffee table in the home I grew up in. I have mentioned a high school exposure to Walden–the writing, the place, the idea–and I have been thinking about that recently as I ponder Chan Chich Lodge’s own little aquatic wonder. Thinking, of course, while walking, frequently encountering living relics of prehistoric wildness on those walks. Douglas Brinkley’s tribute to the legacy of Thoreau–the walker, thinker, writer, conservationist–as we approach the bicentennial of his birth a few days from now, is perfectly timed: Continue reading

Take Note Of NRDC

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In times that try our souls in so many ways, it helps to know that organizations like this one are prepared, and worthy of your consideration for your support:

We rely on wilderness not only to inspire and enjoy but also to protect our watersheds, clean the air we breathe, and provide a home for the diverse species that enrich our world. Continue reading

Fly-Fishing In The Rockies

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Scott Tarrant is the fly-fishing manager at the Broadmoor resort and hotel in Colorado Springs. Credit Ryan David Brown for The New York Times

We always think we have the best occupations, but occasionally we see what someone else is doing and start having second thoughts. But, as we know, there is a reason why it is called work:

The Curative Power of Water, Waders and a Fly Rod

 As told to

Scott Tarrant, 46, is manager of fly-fishing at the Broadmoor, a resort and hotel in Colorado Springs. Continue reading

Monkeying Around

Photo by Seth Inman

Photo by Seth Inman

Spider monkey encounters are commonplace at Chan Chich Lodge. Whether it be during an early morning bird walk or a late afternoon read on the porch futon, spider monkeys will likely make their swinging appearance from the tree top branches at some point during the day. They are curious, but daring creatures that will have no shame in shaking up a couple of branches above your head and letting fruits fall on you if they feel threatened (an inexplicable reaction in my mind when I humbly walk through the trails hoping to catch sight of a Tody Motmot).

Having been in Belize for over a month, I have several memorable anecdotes to share about spider monkeys, but I will share two that I believe encapsulate the magnificence of these intelligent creatures.

Continue reading

Doing More for Protected Lands and Oceans

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Photograph: Owen Humphrey’s/PA

Almost fifteen percent of the Earth’s land is enclosed in national parks or other protected areas, which accounts for approximately 20 million sq km. This figure is close to an internationally agreed goal to protect 17 percent of the land surface by 2020. Comparatively, ocean conservation only accounts for 4 percent of total surface of the ocean, covering 15 million sq km. In spite of these statistics – which reflect a positive outcome of the increased attention and importance given to land and ocean conservation – there are concerns over how well these areas are managed and whether they effectively protect endangered species, as Seth wrote a few days ago.

progress report by the UN Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns that some of the most biodiverse ecosystems are not being protected and that the management of many protected areas is deficient.

Less than 20% of areas considered crucial hubs for species are fully protected, the report states, with countries routinely failing to assess the effectiveness of their national parks nor provide wildlife corridors that allow animals to roam between protected areas.

Continue reading

A New National Monument

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Early morning haze colors from Mount Katahdin and its surrounding mountains. All images from: npr.org

Just in time for the U.S. National Park system centennial, a total of 87,500 acres of mountains, forests and water were donated yesterday by the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, and then declared a national monument. President Obama announced the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a land that used to feed paper mills and is now permanently protected from lumber extraction. The monument will be managed by the National Park Service and allow recreation while protecting resources.

The designation of the woods as protected territory has been in the works for years — and has been controversial among locals, who worried about federal oversight of lands that used to be central to the regional economy.

Continue reading

Camera Trapping Bounty

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A female mountain lion called P-35 was photographed by a camera trap in the Santa Susana Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. National Park Service

 From today’s Science section of the New York Times:

Photographing Wildlife Without a Photographer

By

Camera traps can help illuminate the world’s most elusive animals. When a cougar, elephant or other creature triggers the device’s motion sensor, it snaps a picture.

“Most animals are hiding, you actually never get to see them and you might be led to believe there’s nothing out there,” said Roland Kays, a zoologist at North Carolina State University and author of the forthcoming book “Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature.” Continue reading

Conservation, Technology & Ethics

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Adam Ferriss

We have had the good fortune, and could not agree more with the questions raised and the puzzles presented in this opinion editorial published two days ago in the New York Times:

The Unnatural Kingdom

If technology helps us save the wilderness,
will the wilderness still be wild?

By

IF you ever have the good fortune to see a Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, the experience might go like this: On a sunny morning in Yosemite National Park, you walk through alpine meadows and then up a ridge to the summit of Mount Gibbs at 12,764 feet above sea level. You unwrap a chocolate bar amid breathtaking views of mountain and desert and then you notice movement below. Continue reading

A Great Race

As I type this post the 20 4 person co-ed teams participating in the 2016 Patagonia Expedition Race are hopefully getting a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s Kayak and Rope evaluations. From our collaboration with the organizers, both behind the scenes and in the field, we know the teams are going to need it!

Statistically, fewer than half the teams that start the grueling combination of trekking, mountain biking, kayaking and rope traverses complete the race. The teams receive minimal assistance – basic maps that require extreme orienteering and problem solving – to make the best time from checkpoint to checkpoint in often inhospitable environments.

Imitating the journeys of our Indian forefathers, competitors advance over plains, mountains, glaciers, native forests, swampland, rivers, lakes and channels; guided only by mind and spirit but driven on by physical stamina and experience.

Every edition features a unique route. Past racers have found themselves in the Southern Continental Ice Field, the Strait of Magellan, Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel and Cape Horn. The land is diverse, the challenge real, the adventure untamed. Continue reading

Wind Powered Race Goes To Team Elsie Piddock

Team Elsie Piddock sails up Nichols Passage south of Ketchikan on the way to winning the Race to Alaska. TAYLOR BALKOM / KETCHIKAN DAILY NEWS

Team Elsie Piddock sails up Nichols Passage south of Ketchikan on the way to winning the Race to Alaska. TAYLOR BALKOM / KETCHIKAN DAILY NEWS

Fishermen gonna fish, sometimes pushed to do remarkable things under extreme challenge. Sailors gonna sail, sometimes pushed to do remarkable things under extreme challenge. We thank Seattle radio station KUOW for sharing the news of the conclusion of this race that has had our attention for the last week:

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Ross Reynolds talks to Jake Beattie the director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend and the organizer of the first ever Race to Alaska contest about how Team Elsie Piddock managed to defy expectations and win the race in one week and a day.

See more at the Ketchikan Daily News.

Humans At Their Best, In The Water, In The Extreme

Team Blackfish set sail Thursday morning in what organizers called the first human-powered boat race to Alaska. Credit Evan McGlinn for The New York Times

Team Blackfish set sail Thursday morning in what organizers called the first human-powered boat race to Alaska. Credit Evan McGlinn for The New York Times

Too much dullness and dimwittedness recently. We need a break from that. We like the optimism of Team Blackfish and their fellow sailors:

A Race to Alaska: No Motors, but No Limits on Imagination

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Scott Veirs and Thomas Nielsen have a little wooden plank mounted on their boat, just in front of the seat where they plan to take turns, for days on end, pedaling a bike-chain-driven propeller shaft all the way to Alaska.

“If in doubt,” the sign reads, “try some optimism.”

That could be the motto for the entire field of competitors in what is billed as the first race of its kind — human powered to Alaska — which set off Thursday morning from this city on the shores of Puget Sound, heading north across open water. The 54 entrants in the Race to Alaska— solo efforts and teams, novices and old-salt veterans — were fueled by a mix of determination, ingenuity and upward of 6,000 calories a day, but no motors. Continue reading

Al Fresco Meals Across Time and Space

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Long after humans made living indoors commonplace we still carry the strong desire to commune with nature in one way or another. Whether through gardening or exploration, we crave being outdoors, and that often has meant bringing our meals with us.

The origin of the word “picnic” is unclear. It first appeared in an English dictionary in 1748, and it probably derived from the French pique-nique.

A 17th-century French pique-nique may have been what we now think of as a potluck. In the 18th century, its American counterpart may have been more like a salon gathering. By the 19th century, though, it had become common for Americans to hold these events outside. Continue reading

Ichnology, Xandari-Style

Ichnology is the study of animal traces—commonly tracks, but also anything else that organisms leave behind in their activities (for example, burrows, nests, scat, feeding remnants, or territory markers). It is often far easier to discover an animal’s presence through tracks than direct visual sighting, especially for shy or nocturnal mammals. “An animal can only be in one place at a time, its tracks can be everywhere,” one of my environmental science professors sometimes remarked in support of this principle. Indeed, around Emory’s campus (Atlanta, Georgia) I found tracks on stream banks that belonged to animals I had never actually clapped eyes on in the flesh. Prized among those were a  Continue reading

Landscape Restoration

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Turenscape Qiaoyuan Wetland Park in Tianjin, China, has terraced ponds that incorporate designed experiments to monitor benefits.

We watch for stories about innovative approaches to fixing things in the natural environment, wherever those stories may be found.

And whatever name they may be given.

Thanks to Yale360 for their ongoing attention, including this recent article:

Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration

From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.

by Richard Conniff Continue reading