June 14, 2021

A Lesson from a Veteran Tracker


I never got a chance to learn animal tracking from some near-mythical Apache who could track a mouse across slickrock. But a couple of weeks ago I had another kind of tracking lesson.

Some of us volunteer firefighters  were called to a motorcycle wreck just inside the county line, but when we rolled up, there was no rider, no ambulance, just a couple of Colorado State Patrol troopers walking up and down beside the highway. There was nothing for us to do, but you always stop to make small talk anyway.

According to the CSP troopers, someone—the victim's riding buddy, I think—had called it in, and an ambulance came and picked him up before law enforcement was notified. Just one of those weird Dispatch things. 

(Maybe the call went to the larger adjacent county's dispatch center. Just because you call 911 does not mean you get the right jurisdiction.)

So what you do in these cases is stroll around and try to figure how this Suzuki C90 "Boulevard" came to be upside-down amidst spring wildflowers.

Someone pointed out narrow tire marks on the asphalt that veered toward the edge. Was that where he had gone off? Then a sheriff's deputy arrived, and the troopers treated him deferentially. Why? Because he was a senior CSP sergeant who had recently retired and—to fill his days and supplement his state pension—had gone to work as a county deputy.

(He is not the first. It's a good deal for the sheriff: for a small-county deputy's salary, he gets an experienced officer who is not yet ready to hang up his handcuffs.)

He was the "Apache tracker." He looked at the rubber skid mark and quickly dismissed it as an unrelated track left by (probably) a light trailer with a flat tire: "See how the mark is darker on the edges than in the middle?"

A few steps more and he pointed down—here was the motorcycle's track in the gravel, he said, estimating that the rider had come up a hill and gone almost—but not quite—around a curve at considerably above the 65 mph speed limit.

I bent down and looked. Oh yeah, and there farther on were flat drag marks on either side, left by the rider's boots as he struggled to keep control. It was all clear—or at least clear-er. 

Then the small shallow ditch and the tall grass had taken charge, rolling the Suzuki and tearing off various small parts. Apparently the rider survived.

It's always interesting to watch a master craftsman at work.

June 02, 2021

100th Anniversary: The Southern Colorado Floods of 1921

 

 

A Pueblo telephone operator made
this sketch after she was able to return to work.
If you have spent any time in southern Colorado, you've heard about the floods of early June 1921. Pueblo's gets the most attention: there are markers on old downtown buildings showing how far the water rose, with special attention to the old second-story telephone exchange room, where the "telephone girls" stayed at their switchboards, relaying emergency messages, until the water rose around their ankles and they were evacuated by boats.

The video comes from this Rocky Mountain PBS page about the flood.

Pueblo gets the attention because of the loss of life and the the property damage. 

But it was only Pueblo that suffered. The community of Penrose in eastern Fremont County was ripped by a flood whose damage still lingers when the days of steady rain cause the collapse of the earthen Shaeffer Dam on Beaver Creek.

The Glendale Stage Station in Penrose was put out of business
in the flood of 1921 and finally burned by vandals in the 1970s.
Heavy rains fell in early June of 1921, and by June 4th, cracks were appearing in the Schaeffer Dam. An urgent message was sent via horseback to all the settlers along Beaver Creek. Everyone heeded the call and took their livestock and as many household goods as possible to higher ground. On the morning of the 5th, the dam gave way and torrents of water raced downstream. The floodwaters continued from Beaver Creek down the Arkansas River all the way to Pueblo, where horrible flooding occurred. The fertile topsoil was washed away and most families did not return to the homesteads. No lives were lost and all the livestock were saved, but this was the end of the thriving settlements along Beaver Creek.

I don't think anything like June 1921 was seen again until June 1965, when Cherry Creek, which flows from the south into Denver, flooded, washing out Interstate 25 at Castle Rock and flooding parts of central Denver, but without as much loss of life. Cherry Creek Reservoir was built to keep that from happening again, and now it is a popular recreation area.

If you have information on the floods in other non-urban areas, please comment.

May 25, 2021

Black Bear Bolts in Rocky Mountain National Park (Updated with Video)

Young black bear boar runs for freedom (National Park Service)

At six a.m. last Thursday (the 20th) this young male black bear and his "cellmate" had some visitors: three National Park Service employees and two Colorado game wardens. The last were there to instruct the former in the fine points (heh) of darting and tranquilizing bears.

The two "boys" (subadults) came down from Rocky Mountain National Park to a rehabilitation center in southern Colorado after the East Troublesome Fire last year. They spent the winter getting fat — and somewhat bored — until finally it was time to release them in a area not so much frequented by park visitors.

One of the NPS staffers reported, "The boys were very well-behaved and calm on the trip. The release went really well — away from visitors."

The GPS-tracking collar shown is designed to come off after a time.

I would probably enjoy traveling up I-25 through Denver more if I could be tranquilized in a windowless trailer too.*


The rehabbers were curious if the two bears would pal around together for a time, but the GPS evidence said they did not.

"The bears stuck together for less than two minutes before going in separate directions. They're sub adults and their genetics are telling them to go off and find their own territories," one of the NPS stafers reported.

* Actually, bears in transit are usually recovering from the anesthesia with the aid of another drug. For one thing, it means one will not end up lying on top of the other and possibly smothering it. An exception might be if they have to be moved from the transport trailer on a sled or something, where they need to be kept quiet longer.


May 24, 2021

Turds, Trash, and Tire Tracks: The Car-Camping Pendulum Swings Again

1925 Ford Model T touring car (Wikipedia).
A century ago, our national forests had a problem. Behind the wheels of their Ford Model T's and other cars, Americans re-discovered camping. Soon over-used favorite camping areas were littered with trash, human waste, multple firepits, unauthorized roads, and all the other bad effects.

The US Forest Service was fifteen years old and trying to get a handle on "scientific" forest management, firefighting, and grazing management. It was part of the Department of Agriculture. ("We're tree-farmers," an old-school district ranger once told me.)

Recreation management was not on their to-do list. That was the National Park Service's job—different agency, different department—the Interior Department. 

Davenport Campground, 1920s, San Isabel National Forest,
southern Colorado, designed by Arthur Carhart as one
of the first automobile campgrounds.

The Model-T generation changed all that, driving and camping everyplace instead of taking the train and shuttling to a big resort hotel like the Old Faithful Inn.

By the early 1920s the Forest Service hired landscape architect (and wilderness advocate) Arthur Carhart to figure how to manage these automobile recreationists.

For more on Carhart's influence on southern Colorado, start here: "Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge, Part 1."

The Forest Service built campgrounds up through the 1960s and 1970s, but the 1980s — the Reagan years — saw the pendulum swing the other. A couple of Carhart's recreational areas near me were closed in the early 1980s "due to lack of funding for maintenance." In the 1980s and 1990s, local Forest Service managers sang the praises of "dispersed camping." 

(But Daveport Campground, pictured above, was re-built in the early 2000s to re-create its 1920s appearance. Retro-camping with federal dollars — who knew?)

Everything Old Is New Again, Including Turds and Trash

Some people blame the COVID pandemic. I don't know, but suddenly car-camping (and hiking) is really popular. Some headlines:


"Nature 'more important than ever during lockdown'"

More than 40% of people say nature, wildlife and visiting local green spaces have been even more important to their wellbeing since the coronavirus restrictions began.

"Colorado public land managers rely on education, then enforcement to deal with a crush of long-term campers"

Closing heavily used campsites is public lands “triage” as Forest Service and local officials struggle to protect natural resources from a growing wave of backcountry campers and explorers this summer.

"Consultants present potential solutions to mitigate overcrowding issues at Quandary Peak and nearby trailheads"

As events were canceled last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, other activities — like hiking Quandary Peak, McCullough Gulch and Blue Lakes trails — skyrocketed in popularity. The influx of visitors to these areas last summer caused a barrage of issues like speeding, congestion, lack of parking and safety concerns

"Reservations will be required for Brainard Lake, Mount Evans beginning in June"
Some areas of Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests that allowed “dispersed” camping will be converted to day-use only


"Which Public Lands Are Right for You?"

Your bucket list should go beyond national parks. This decision tree will help you find lesser known locations with half the crowds. [Also more Instagrammable.—CSC]

Even if it is true that headliner national parks (like Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon) saw fewer visitors due to COVID-related shut-downs, camping on close-in public lands has exploded.  Here in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park visitation is up 44 percent over ten years, and the NPS wants a reservation system permanently. Not everyone likes that idea.

Suddenly, that loosely managed "dispersed camping" is being managed, heavily. There is a new term: "designated dispersed."

 
"Managed Designated Dispersed Camping Begins on South Platte Ranger District"

Rocky Mountain Recreation will begin managing 99 designated dispersed camp sites on the South Platte Ranger District portion of Rampart Range Road starting Friday, May 21. Each campsite is numbered, and designated parking areas are marked. Thirty of the campsites are available for reservation through recreation.gov and 69 sites are first come, first serve. Campers will be issued a tag to hang in their vehicle. Reserved sites will have a “Reservation” card posted at the campsite with the name of the visitor.

 On the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, the popular Rampart Range dispersed camping area near Woodland Park now has a complicated map. (Facebook link here.)


In the long run, maybe the USFS just needs more developed campsites, with regular maintenance, campground hosts, the whole business — or else a concessionaire to run them.

May 06, 2021

Death of a Wildlife Protector

 

I started donating at the "get a logo ball cap" level.
In 2018 I went with some other Backcountry Hunters & Anglers volunteers to clean up a cartel-run marijuana grow on national forest land in southern Colorado.

Although the growing crew had been arrested and the plants pulled up and piled. there was a lot of non-biodegradable trash to be collected for later helicopter pickup: a mile of plastic irrigating pipe, soggy sleeping bags, wire, chemical containers, food trash, etc.

We hiked in escorted by two Forest Service law-enforcement rangers armed with pistols and a AR-15 rifle. They scouted ahead to see if anyone had snuck back in (nope), and then we went to work. I thought at the time that with all the public-lands volunteer work I have done since Boy Scout days, this was first time that I had had an armed escort.

Central Africa, of course, is a different story. Armed escorts are a fact of life.

Rory Young (Chengeta Wildlife)

I learned about Chengeta Wildlife from Alan Bunn of African Expeditions magazine, which tracks a lot of poaching issues.

Unlike some well-known groups fighting poaching (mainly for the rapacious Chinese market) in East Afica, Cengeta works in central and western Africa — in nations such as the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Chengeta trains and equips anti-poaching rangers while also conducting "Education and outreach to ensure that the current generation and the next are aware of the need to conserve wildlife and protected areas" and attempting to create "Social pressure to deter and prevent wildlife crime: Working through traditional and religious leaders to positively influence local behavior.."

Its co-founder, Rory Young, was born in Zambia to Irish parents. 

On April 26th, Young was with two Spanish documentary filmmakers, Roberto Fraile and David Beriain, working on a film about anti-poaching efforts in Burkina Faso, when they and their escort were attacked by fighters from Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, yet another Muslim jihadi group. All three were killed.

According to Chengeta' Wildlife's statement,

Rory was leading a wildlife protection patrol in Arly National Park, Burkina Faso on 26th April 2021 when they were attacked by terrorists, which resulted in his death and that of two Spanish journalists who were capturing his efforts to protect precious wildlife. 

The Spanish government flew their bodies back to Madrid. Here is video of their arrival at the Torrejón  Air Base. The cooperante irlandés would be Young.


The work will go on. Meanwhile, you can donate to a separate fund for help Young's wife and children. I did. I wouldn't feel right about wearing the cap unless I had.

If Looks Could Kill . . .


 . . . then these tom turkeys would be dead, because they are engaged in a hostile stare-down with their own reflections. Angry gobbling was heard.

Some mule deer in the background. Southern Colorado foothills life, at some friends' house.

May 02, 2021

What's Wrong with Arbor Day?

Born in southern Colorado, I spent much of my childhood in South Dakota, living where the Black Hills met the prairie. When it came to trees, the ethos was Trees Are Good — Absence of Trees is Bad

One Arbor Day we pupils at Canyon Lake Elementary School in Rapid City were marched out on the front lawn to watch a tree-planting. As best I can tell from Google Maps, that tree is still there, although its top looks a little drought-damaged.

Two hours south of Rapid City is Chadron, Nebraska, gateway to the Nebraska National Forest, "the largest hand-planted forest in the U.S." Not-coincidentally, the first Arbor Day in America was held in Nebraska and marked by massive tree-plantings throughout that state.

President Theodore Roosevelt thought that Arbor Day was a splendid idea and issued a national proclamation to that effect in 1907.

Trees Are Good, right? Or as the bumper sticker has it, "Trees Are The Answer."

Yet even in Nebraska, not everyone thinks so.

Chris Helzer, who is the Nature Conservancy’s director of science in Nebraska, speaks out against the Trees Are Good attitude beyond Arbor Day, when it affects prairie ecologies, in a blog post titled "The Darker Side of Tree Planting in the Great Plains."

Euro-American cultural attitudes, once again, collided with ecological realities, he writes,

In 1907, a combination of those [western Nebraska] tree plantations was designated as the Nebraska National Forest, something many Nebraskans were and are proud of.  I’ve always seen that whole process as a kind of sad appeal for respect (‘See, we DO have forests in Nebraska!’)  It’s like an accomplished and popular actor, musician, and philanthropist feeling inferior their whole life because they’re not good at basketball – and repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying out for teams. . . .

We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to get the public to support prairie conservation. Tree planting isn’t the problem, and neither are the people and organizations who advocate for it. Trees are very nice. Some of my best friends have trees.

The problem is that tree planting is linked to an unsavory and unfortunate legacy in the Great Plains that still colors perceptions today. We need to separate the reasonable practice of planting a tree for shade, shelter, or fruit from the concept that white Europeans have a God-given right and duty to convert barren prairie wastelands into neat rows of corn and trees. I’m sure most people aren’t consciously making that connection as they dig a hole for their new apple tree seedling, but that doesn’t mean the cultural influence isn’t lurking in the background.

He makes a good argument: healthy prairie ecosystems are wonderfully complex, and yes, they do store CO2, if that is on your mind. We could let prairie be prairie without "improving" it  — although even Helzer admits that shelterbelts are OK around farmsteads.

May 01, 2021

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Richard Nelson

Earlier Posts: (1) Barry Lopez (2) Pentti Linkola 

I am fudging this one just a little. The anthropologist Richard Nelson (b. 1941) actually died in November 2019, but I did not hear about it until January 2020, when an archaeologist friend sent me a link to a number of news items in his field.

Reading email on my laptop in some coffeehouse in Colorado Springs, I was skimming the news items when I read of Nelson's passing —  "having asked that he spend his final minutes, after being taken off of life support, listening to the recorded sound of ravens."

Richard Nelson recording a gray jay, up close.
(Liz McKenzie for the Rasmuson Foundation).

The type got all blurry after that, and I don't remember any of the rest.

I did not know him, never heard him speak. His radio program, Encounters, was not on any station around here to my knowledge, but you can get samples online, such as here.

The Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation  has a good page about Nelson.

I knew him through books: he wrote a number of them, first in a more anthropological vein, such as Hunters of the Northern Forests

As his Wikipedia page puts it, "[he] moved from anthropological studies to a more literary style" with Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest.

That was the book that pulled me in, with bits such as the Koyukon people telling him that it was impolite to point at a mountain. (The Koyukon speak a related language to Navajo and Apache; evidently they are the ones who said, "Fine, you go south. We like it here.")

The video above is based on that book. It is one of a series that you can find on YouTube.

He also wrote Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America, among others, with its often-quoted statements that ""When it comes to deer, wildness is the greatest truth. And tameness is a tender, innocent lie." 

A reviewer on Goodreads wrote, "It's a really interesting look at people's relationships with deer from all angles (our spiritual and ecological connections with wildlife, the dilemma of controlling overabundant deer, trophy hunting, hunting deer for venison, the anti-hunting movement, etc.)."

I remember the passage about hunting blacktail deer in the coastal Alaska forest with his Border collie Keta:

Now . . . rather than staying close, Keta sidles off and lifts her nose as if there's a faint musk drifting in the breeze. She comes reluctantly when I gesture toward my heel. Taking her cue, I pause and watch ahead, then move when a sigh of wind in the trees covers the sound of our footsteps. Luckily, the ridge is well drained and densely carpeted in sphagnum moss, so it's fairly quiet going.

Keta's behavior telegraphs the scent's increasing strength: she moves forward, catches herself and looks back, falls in beside me, then shunts away to my left or right like someone pacing at a line she's been warned not to cross. She probes her nose into the breeze, occasionally reaching to the side for a stronger ribbon of scent. She hesitates and stares intently, aware that something is nearby but unable to pick it out. And most telling of all: she leans back and anxiously lifts a forepaw, possessed by her desire to charge off but yielding to the discipline she's learned, as if an inner voice were ordering her to wait.

By this time I'm convinced it must be a deer. If it were a bear, Keta would refuse to keep still and she'd woof suspiciously, deep in her throat. I edge along, furtive and stalking, as if I'd already seen the animal. At one point I even try sniffing the air, but for me there's not a hint of smell. It's strange, being completely numb to a signal that's as obvious to Keta as walking into a cloud of smoke. I stop for several minutes to study the ravel of shrubs and trees and openings ahead. But despite Keta's certainty, the place looks vacant to me.

And that passage concludes,

No scientist, no shaman, no stalker, no sentimentalist will ever understand the deer . . . and for this I am truly grateful. I am possessed by a powerful curiosity about this animal, but what I desire most is to experience and acclaim its mysteries. In our explorations of scientific and practical information about deer, we should always keep in mind what the elders and philosophers teach: that while knowledge dispels some mysteries, it deepens others.

I just wish someone had kidnapped him from the hospital to let him spend his last days with friends on that island, beneath the open sky, hearing real ravens, letting his spirit float free.

April 29, 2021

Summit County Skier Sets Vertical Ski-Mountaineering Record & Where to Get Colorado News

Grace Staberg, left, of Summit County, skins uphill with Nikki LaRochelle on Copper Mountain, Tuesday morning, April 27, 2021, near Frisco. (Hugh Carey, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Earlier this week, Grace Staberg of Summit County, Colorado, set a women's American record for climbing 56,153 vertical feet on skis in 24 hours, reports the Colorado Sun.

Starting at 9 a.m. Monday, the ski mountaineering superstar and 2020 graduate of Summit County High School skied up and down Copper Mountain more than 21 times. Paced by a team of friends  — a sort of Who’s Who of Colorado ski athletes — she climbed from Copper’s Center Village to the top of the Storm King lift at 12,441 feet.

I am impressed. But at that age you do have energy. I can remember my modest accomplishment of climbing Mount Hood (the easy way, up from Timberline Lodge) after tripping on LSD all the previous night, getting only a nap in the back of someone's car as we drove from Portland. I was 20. It seemed normal.

The Colorado Sun — not to be confused with the Colorado Springs Sun, a daily newspaper published 1947–1986 — is a "journalist-owned" news website. With the Rocky Mountain News gone, the Denver Post a shadow of what it used to be, etc. etc. etc., it's one of the few choices left for statewide coverage. 

For $5/month, the basic level, you get a daily Colorado news digest.  I do it. It's not astounding — pretty much the usual stories about the usual suspects from the usual MSM viewpoint. But you can counterbalance that with Complete Colorado, a statewide news-aggregation site with a crankier, small-l libertarian bent.

April 19, 2021

Who Needs Bigfoot? We Have Mystery Beasts

 I know what they are, but where did they come from? 

First, an orange cat. He looks a lot like Charlie, a neighbor's cat who frequently visited people staying in the guest cabin in the early teens. Then he vanished, as semi-feral cats often do. But now there is another orange cat, presumably the source of cat tracks seen on snowy mornings.

Then this yellow dog has turned up a few times this spring on a scout camera near the house. We don't recognize him — and M. is the sort of person who walks a lot and knows the local dogs better than she knows their owners. But I can't believe he is living on his own.


Another camera, which was set to video, picked up some visiting black dogs — and then this, which definitely is not a dog.


That was on March 31st, between snowstorms. Obviously a pig. M reminded me that certain neighbors, who keep making inept experiments at homesteading, had two piglets last summer — once or twice they came visiting and then trotted home. 

One piglet was black, she said. I don't remember. But this one does not look like it's trotting home. In fact, it is moving in the opposite direction in a determined manner.

I have not picked it up again on a camera since then. Is it running free? Maybe there will be a good acorn crop this year, but not for six months, so root, hog, or die.

Just something else to watch out for. Like stray tortoises.

April 07, 2021

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Pentti Linkola


Of the three writers I am discussing (Barry Lopez was the first), the deep ecologist Penti Linkola (1932–2020) is the least cuddly. In fact, he was pretty crusty. One Finnish academic described his writing as "a very Finnish and dark version of 'an inconvenient truth'" (from the title of Al Gore's environmental book).

Linkola wrote in Finnish, and the only work translated into English that I have seen is a collection of essays, Can Life Prevail? published by Arktos Media and available as a printed book, ebook, or audiobook.

In American terms, you might find in him Henry David Thoreau's skepticism about "progress," Ed Abbey's distrust of authority and "the experts," and  Wendell Berry's valuing of small-scale sustainable farming and traditional life style — plus a healthy dose of your favorite author of After the Big Collapse distopian novels.

And with Rachel Carson's eye for scientific observation and making connections.

Linkola made his living as an inshore fisherman from 1959 to 1995 — it is hard to imagine him taking orders from any boss. His father and his grandfather were both university administrators; he studied biology and worked as a research ornithologist for a time. He started a preservation organization that functions something like The Nature Conservancy. 

So, for example, his observations about the decline of bird populations in his lifetime — favoring those birds such as crows and jays that thrive in human-altered landscapes versus those that do not — or about the damage of invasive species or industrial logging are based in science and on personal observation.

In his preface, he condemns his fellow Finns' version of progress: "Finland is switching to the most horrid forms of market economy, to an uncritical worship of technology, to automation and media vapidity; with information technology pervading all human exchanges" (20). 

He refers to present-day circumstances as "Suicidal Society."

He jumps from how bureaucratic hygiene regulations damaged small fisherman like himself, who could not afford and did not want big seagoing boats with million-euro ice machines on board, and likewise damage small grocers, butchers, etc. to arguing that an ultra-clean home environment produces people with poor immune systems (in which he is far from alone).

I myself tend to dismiss all nutritional controversies — surrounding meat, vegetables, salt, butter, sugar — with one simple statement: if you don't eat, you die, and if you eat, you survive. It is enough to clarify that objects that harm teeth and internal organs, such as iron nails and glass fragments, should be avoided (25–26).
But there is one thing about Linkola that spooks mainstream environmentalists  — his politics.

He spent his life in Finland's parliamentary democracy, a center-left Scandinavian welfare state. He rejected it. 

Democracy, to Linkola, was a "suicidal" form of government, because people will always vote for the leader who promises more free stuff, "bread and circuses, regardless of the cost and consequences" (154). He adhered to principles of deep ecology:

There is nothing above the requirements of the continuity of life: all other interests fall below it. As the deep ecologist emphasises those factors beneficial to the preservation and continuation of life, his arguments will always be above all others. . . . What the deep ecologist loves is the whole. Therein lies the greatest beauty, wealth, and love. The deep ecologist does not understand the Christian-Humanist love of man, which even at its best only extends to a nation or mankind: this he sees as a form of inbreeding, egotism, masturbation (165).

Linkola was not the Unabomber. He admits that he has never dared to do more than speak, write, and peacefully demonstate. Yet he wrote, "The crippling human cover spread over the living layer of the Earth must forcibly be made lighter: breathing holes must be punctured in this blanket and the ecological footprint of man brushed away" (170, emphasis added). 

I have heard such sentiments expressed by North American enviros, when the whiskey is being passed around the campfire. But they don't put them in their grant applications, their legal filings, or their conference papers.

At times, he yearned for a something like Plato's Republic: a small-scale society led by a class of Guardians who are well-educated (and trained in the martial arts to balance mind and body), yet who live materially simply. Somehow, if the perfect Green dictator could arise, that person could supervise a "world made by hand," to borrow a post-Collapse book title.

At other times he echoes the ancient Chinese book of the Tao, the Tao Te Ching (Legge translation) — which is at base a political manual, not a self-help text:

In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there should be no employment of them . . . .

Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasion to don or use them. . . .

They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.

There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it (Chapter 80).

That sounds like Linkola. Yet he also was quoted as saying, "If there were a button I could press, I would sacrifice myself without hesitating, if it meant millions of people would die."

It is not surprising that a resident of a Scandinavian welfare state who says that his own society is not only ecologically destructive but destructive of human health and well-being as well is not the sort who is invited to speak to the United Nations or the graduating classes at universities. At least in the abstract, he has advocated dictatorship:

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.

I am reminded of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot (1925–1998) and his war on cities in the 1970s. Not a model to follow.

Yet I can understand Linkola's call for Something Different as born from a deep love of the natural world and deep pain at its destruction. 

As with Plato 2,500 years ago, sometimes we wish for the Philosopher King who would set things right. But do we ever get one? Plato once thought that he had found such a man, but everything went sideways, and the famous Athenian philosopher had to flee for his life.

 It is not a bad thing, however, to keep his book on the shelf and to look at aspects of your life and ask, "What would Pentti think?"

Next: Richard Nelson.

April 06, 2021

Look, Ma, a Titmouse!

Juniper titmouse (Baeolophus ridgwayi) Cornell Univ.
The Juniper Titmouse is sort of the ultimate Little Gray Bird (LGB), although I suppose that Dark-Eyed Juncos would contest that ranking. (And here I go capitalizing bird names like some kind of birding writer, which I am not.)

M. and I have been loyal citizen-scientists for Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch since shortly after we moved up here, first sending in paper forms and now doing it online.

The computer generates a group of likely southern Colorado birds, and of course you can add something that is not on the list.

They don't really migrate. We live in the pale purple area—
"scarce," whereas the dark area is simply "year-round."

Every year, grouped with the Mountain Chickadee and the Black-Capped Chickadee is the Juniper Titmouse. What's that?

Until on March 12 when I looked by the lower sunflower-seed feeder, at the edge of a patch of Gambel oak, juniper, and piñon pine, and there was this triangle-headed LGB. A titmouse, clearly! And it has shown up occasionally since then.

A titmouse "cool fact": 

Like many other members of the chickadee family Juniper Titmice don’t migrate and instead stick out harsh winters on their breeding grounds. One of the ways they survive the cold, virtually insect-free season is by storing seeds in crevices of trees or other places to eat later.

But the name! While "mouse," the small rodent, comes from the Proto-Indo-European *mus," meaning mouse, the small rodent, the "mouse" in titmouse has another ancient root, from "Proto-Germanic *maison (source also of Dutch mees, German meise), from adj. *maisa- "little, tiny."

 As for "tit," the Online Etymological Dictionary says this:

1540s, a word used for any small animal or object (as in compound forms such as titmouse, tomtit, etc.); also used of small horses. Similar words in related senses are found in Scandinavian (Icelandic tittr, Norwegian tita "a little bird"), but the connection and origin are obscure; perhaps, as OED suggests, the word is merely suggestive of something small. Used figuratively of persons after 1734, but earlier for "a girl or young woman" (1590s), often in deprecatory sense of "a hussy, minx."

The British would call all the chickadees "tits" as a generic term. North Americans generally don't.

If you run into anyone named Titmouse (it happens), be sure to say it "TIT-mus."

Since I don't live on the Pacific coast, I never see boobies.

March 29, 2021

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Barry Lopez


This is the first of three linked entries. First, Barry Lopez, 1945–2020. Second, Pentti Linkola. Third, Richard Nelson.

One day in the early Eighties I was browsing in the Chinook Bookshop (1959–2004) in downtown Colorado Spriings and picked up what I thought was a work of creative nonfiction, perhaps a memoir.  I read a chapter titled "Buffalo." The last paragraph convinced me I was wrong. 

I wasn't in the habit of buying new hardback books back then, but I took this one back to the sales counter.

The book was Barry Lopez' Winter Count (1981). If I had looked at the back cover, I would have read Bill Kittredge's blurb: 

Through these elegant stories, Barry Lopez gives us over to a concrete and particular landscape which is luminously inhabited by mystery, radiant with possibilities which transcend the defeats we find for ourselves.
Wikipedia: "In a career spanning over 50 years, he visited over 80 countries, and wrote extensively about distant and exotic landscapes including the Arctic wilderness, exploring the relationship between human cultures and nature."

Of Wolves and Men (1978) made Lopez's reputation, but Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986) was even finer.  Reading it one warm early spring day, where I could bask in a folding chair next to a melting snowbank, I thought that I would have given my hand to have written anything so intriguing and well-constructed. To quote Wikipedia again,

Arctic Dreams describes five years in the Canadian Arctic, where Lopez worked as a biologist. Robert Macfarlane, reviewing the book in The Guardian, describes him as "the most important living writer about wilderness". In The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani argued that Arctic Dreams "is a book about the Arctic North in the way that Moby-Dick is a novel about whales."

He also wrote what would be a graphic novel if it were fiction, but maybe it's "graphic creative nonfiction" — Apologia (1997), which is about roadkill. From the dust jacket:

"It has long been a habit of writer Barry Lopez to remove dead animals from the road. At the conclusion of a journey from Oregon to Indiana in 1989, he wrote Apologia to explore the moral and emotional upheaval he experienced dealing with the dead every day."

It's no surprise that as a young man he considered the Catholic priesthood or even monastic life. But then we would not have his books like these.

I do that too when I can safely pull off. I keep an old Army entrenching tool behind the the driver's seat. Even with that and gloves though, sometimes I have resumed my trip while realizing that my fingers smell like death.

The links in this post go to Amazon. I keep this blog ad-free, but I do have hosting bills, so any purchase from a blog link is a help. Thanks.


March 28, 2021

Colorado Revives Wildlife Area "Pass" for Non-Hunters/Anglers



Tomahawk SWA offers fishing access to the South Platte River in South Park.

Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife identified a problem with state wildlife areas: too many people were turning them into campgrounds, etc. without holding a hunting or fishing license.

Many people do not realize that quite a few state wildlife areas are not public land. Many lakes, for example, are owned by irrigation companies and such who lease fishing rights to the state.

So CPW announced that a hunting or fishing license would be require to "recreate" on a state wildlife area, and fishing license sales rose. That is $46.48 when you throw in the required "habitat stamp." Selling more fishing licenses is good too because it means Colorado gets more

Now, something new. A state wildlife access permit! They tried that in 2006. Back then it was $10. But that fee died a quiet death. Now it's back and oddly enough, the annual pass is priced exactly like a fishing license!

Here is the news release:

(March 23, 2021 DENVER) – At its virtual meeting last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve a new Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass as an option to access state wildlife areas. The new pass will go on sale May 1, 2021.

“This is an important step in ensuring everyone who visits our state wildlife areas is contributing to their management and maintenance,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

The annual Colorado SWA Pass will be available on May 1, 2021 by visiting any CPW office or online at cpwshop.com. The pass will be priced similarly to a resident annual fishing license and revenue from the new SWA pass will be used to manage and maintain SWAs.

Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass
annual: $36.08*
1 day: $9
Youth (ages 16-17) annual: $10.07
Senior (ages 65 and older) annual: $10.07
Low-income annual: $10.07
(Fees include a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge)
*Plus a fee of $10.40 for a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp

The annual pass is valid from March 1 – March 31 of the following year, also aligning with the 13-month season for fishing licenses in Colorado.

History and funding of state wildlife areas in Colorado
CPW now manages more than 350 SWAs, all set aside to conserve wildlife habitat with dollars from hunting and angling licenses. Those funds are also matched with federal income from the excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.

While these properties have been identified as critical wildlife habitat, over the years they have also gained significant value for outdoor recreationists.
Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people now visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land.

As Colorado’s population - and desire for outdoor recreation - has continued to grow, a significant increase in traffic to these SWAs has disrupted wildlife, the habitat the areas were acquired to protect, and the hunters and anglers whose contributions were critical to acquiring these properties.

That’s why in July of 2020, new regulations went into effect requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any SWA leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

CPW had historically been bound by stringent guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how income earned from these properties could be accounted for, making the creation of another kind of pass to access these areas financially unfeasible. But in late 2020, CPW received approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a new accounting approach that made adding a pass as an option for access to these properties feasible.

In November 2020, an SWA Working Group was created with CPW staff and stakeholders from around the state to determine what a new pass might look like.

A new State Wildlife Area Pass
At its January 2021 meeting, the CPW Commission heard recommendations from the SWA Working Group on creating a new Colorado SWA Pass.

Recommendations:
The group recommended pricing the annual pass at a similar level to the annual fishing license, offering discounted passes to youth and seniors priced comparably to youth and senior fishing licenses, offering a 1-day pass option priced comparably to the 1-day parks pass, requiring a Habitat Stamp and a surcharge for the Wildlife Management Public Education Fund in addition to the pass, and offering a discounted low-income annual pass option. The age at which a hunting license, fishing license or SWA pass is required to access SWAs was reduced to all persons 16 years and older to better correspond to the youth pass and license options.

Now that the Colorado SWA Pass is available, the SWA Working Group will move into Phase II of its work, completing an audit of all Colorado’s SWAs to determine which properties may require additional restrictions on allowed activities, seasonal closures for wildlife, and reviews to determine if the property is still meeting its intended purpose as a wildlife area.

More information and SWA FAQ about CPW’s state wildlife areas is available on CPW’s website.

March 23, 2021

Giving Names to Boulders

I mentioned the ill-fated Bonsai Rock on March 21st — ill-fated from the "bonsai" trees' perspective, pretty much life as usual for a boulder, except for some flaking due to heat.

Pasqueflowers growin on a boulder.
So M. and I have been walking this ridge for some years now, and we have not named too many boulders. There is Hairy Rock (its flat top catches pine needles, giving it a shaggy look), Pasqueflower Rock (they bloom there early, maybe because it warms up early), and Ringtail Rocks, a collection of huge boulders fallen from the rimrock above, including two that formed a sort of lean-to shelter.

No sign of earlier human inhabitants in the shelter though, unless some Middle Archaic hunter dived in there to get out of a thunderstorm. It's pretty cramped. But the buried hunter from a cave just a little farther north was only 5 feet 3 inches tall, said the experts. 

Two days ago, we took a different path and came to a boulder above the "shelter" that I had not examined previously, although I had been setting a scout camera not far from it, picking up ringtails, gray foxes, and occasionally black bears.

 The last of recent snowstorm was melting—and more was coming—so we were taking advantage of a typical warm pre-storm day.

A gray box barking last September. Note the boulder's base at upper right, in shadow.

On top of the boulder, we found the smallest of vernal pools . . .


"Skywater!" M. said, thinking of one of her favorite novels, Melissa Worth Popham's Skywater. (Preview it here.

I looked around and was thinking more in terms of "Fox Shit Rock." Obviously, this is the place to proclaim your superior fox-ness through high-level pooping.


But I think it's going to be Skywater Rock.