May 01, 2007

The Festival of the Mountain Plover

Recently in nature-writing class, as part of a discussion of bioregionalism, we talked about the beginnings of local civic festivals organized not around human events ("Pioneer Days" and all its variations in little Western towns) but around the natural world.

In Colorado, the Monte Vista Crane Festival, which started in 1983, has to have been one of the first. Lamar now does something similar each spring with snow geese.

But the Massive Birder Conspiracy rolls on. Now Karval, a small community in Lincoln County, NE of Pueblo, suddenly sees an economic boost in the mountain plover, according to today's Denver Post, which headlined a story on eco-tourism "Beak to the Future."

A few months ago, ranchers realized the bird's economic potential to draw bird lovers who want to add the mountain plover to their lifetime birding lists. So last weekend, this Eastern Plains town of a few hundred people hosted the inaugural Mountain Plover Festival, drawing bird lovers to Karval for a $75 package of educational sessions about the bird, morning viewings and meet-and-greets with locals.

I am all for this trend, although I fail to see how watching freight trains counts as "eco-tourism."