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.

March 21, 2021

Bonsai Mullein, Drip-Irrigated Moss

I was walking in the woods today with M., our last chance before the next snowstorm hits, and she noticed the "bonsai" mullein growing out of a crack in this boulder.

We use" bonsai" as a term for all plants growing in rock cracks,  often Douglas fir or ponderosa pine. To me the term combines a certain cuteness with admiration for Life's Unwavering Force — or something like that. 

In Japanese, it means "tray planting," a term for "plants that are grown in shallow containers following the precise tenets of bonsai pruning and training, resulting in an artful miniature replica of a full-grown tree in nature."

But I like it better when it just happens. 

There is a big boulder on the way to Camera Trap Spring that I named Bonsai Rock for the little conifers growing from it. Then a forest fire came through, but I still use the name.

Her eye was caught by mullein, since it is a medicinal herb, and she keeps a mental catalog of what grows where. These plants do seem a little fragile to harvest, but there might be more growing inearby.

And in this year of "moderate drought," we crouched to admire the moss growing below. It is on the boulder's north-facing side, and it must be sustained by rain and snow melt that descends through fractures in the rock.

March 19, 2021

How to Defend Yourself against Dog Attacks

There is a kind of hostile big German shepherd-mix dog who runs through our woods sometimes. Yes, I know who owns him, and yes, if this were a just world, the dog would feast on his owner's body, but in the meantime . . . 

So I read this article on how to defend youself against dog attacks with interest.

Dog attacks occur all over the world. In Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve locked eyes with the vicious, feral dogs lurking in the alleys. In Haiti, I met what locals called “the Haiti dogs,” that have killed and even eaten humans at night. I don’t know the statistics for bites in those countries, but they can’t be any better than ours. Given the grave damage and high frequency of these incidents, it would behoove us train for these encounters. Some beasts want to bite you. Today, let’s learn how to bite back.
You have two arms, but you could get along with just one, right?

And before you start in with "What caliber for," let's remember that in some times and places, firearms may not be an option, or that using one might get you into a whole 'nother set of problems. So it is good to know your options. (Bear spray has worked for my wife and myself also.)

March 03, 2021

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

The director of the Raptor Center called with  a phone number of a man who had an injured juvenal red-tailed hawk at his house "in Florence." But when I called him to get the address, it was some distance out of town, out in the coal fields. 

I did not even know there were private homes in that area; I thought it was a re-claimed open pit mine. I said that I would give him another  call as soon as finished some in-town business and was on the road.

A young woman answered the same cell phone. "Ricky" was outside some place, but yeah, just come up the county road and turn at "that yellow sign at the fork in the road." 

It was the third? fourth? driveway — anyway, if you come to the blue dumpster, you missed it

The overall domestic vibe was heavy on old tires and pitbulls, but the dogs were friendly and so were the people once we made contact. The fiftyish man and the young woman with a cigarette tucked behind her ear had been at a local wetlands "natural area" the day before and found the hawk, weak and unable to fly. They had picked it up. 

"I stopped at the bait shop and bought some worms," he said proudly. "And we gave it some water with a dropper. It's been eating pretty good today." 

Worms — not what I would have thought of, but still better than the woman who fed a great horned owl with oatmeal because she "read it on the internet.  Water was a good idea. (More below)

Something is wrong with those feet.
 
Here was a juvenal red-tail then, sitting on a puffy quilt in a metal dog crate with black shade-cloth clothespinned to the top. Thoughtful!  Not having come from home, where all my own travel crates are stashed, I just loaded Ricky's crate into the Jeep and took off.
 
At the Raptor Center, the director uncrated the bird. Wings good. A bit dehydrated. No obvious burns as from flying into a power line. Los of big burrs on its underside — from when it was grounded? She snipped them out, washing and gently massaging. One foot still seemed limp.
 
Further examination was to come once it was rested and rehydrated. I left for home. I know by now that more than half of the birds that come in are past helping, but I will check back in a couple of days so that I will have news for Ricky when I bring his crate back. 

Update, March 4: The hawk is being treated for botulism, which can cause "flaccid paralysis beginning with feet and legs.”  Waterfowl carry botulism, and the hawk was found in a wetland area, which might mean something — maybe it killed or scavenged an infected duck?