Browsing All Posts published on »September, 2011«

A second century of stewardship and engagement

September 29, 2011

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What a great title for legislation from a venerable name in U.S. conservation support. Yesterday Kirsten and I drove through the San Juan Mountains from Durango to Ouray, during the peak of fall colors, and we think it may be about the most beautiful landscape we have ever seen. So it is gratifying to see that there is right now a proposal to designate more than 60,000 acres in southwestern Colorado as either wilderness or a special management area back before Congress. U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are reintroducing the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act . . .

Preaching conservation without a choir

September 29, 2011

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Western politicians and special interest local factions have always been against the idea of protecting and conserving tracts of public land. It's no different today. Kirsten and I were just in Moab this week -- it's now late in September-- and the town is still packed with tourists. We had breakfast with a couple from upstate New York who were blown away by the vast beauty of the open West. Folks from around the U.S. and the world flock in for a taste of America's wild heritage, to the point that we risk loving the land to death. Yet our local politicians speak as if conservation is a D.C. based political conspiracy that hurts the West. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is in Utah promoting conservation this week. Is it representative that he gets the cold shoulder? . . . more>>

World’s first International Dark Sky Park is in Utah

September 27, 2011

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International Dark Sky Park In 2006 the International Dark-skies Association designated a small park in Utah, Natural Bridges National Monument, as the world’s first International Dark-sky Park, thereby setting the bar incredibly high for those parks that wanted to follow suit. The skies above Natural Bridges are amongst the darkest in the USA. Once a source of wonder--and one half of the entire planet’s natural environment—the star-filled nights of just a few years ago are vanishing in a yellow haze. Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone. Read more . . .

Protecting the environment is good for the economy

September 26, 2011

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The Utah Foundation recently released its first biennial Quality of Life Index, based on a rigorously designed survey of what a representative cross-section of Utahns consider most important to their well-being. Environmental quality was near the top of the list. Robert Adler of the University of Utah in a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed wrote last week that, "The foundation’s findings also question the myth that environmental quality and jobs are antithetical values. In fact, the survey shows that Utahns value both a sound economy and a healthy environment as fundamental, co-equal requirements of their quality of life."representative cross-section of Utahns consider most important to their well-being. Environmental quality was near the top of the list. Why in Utah, then, is the depiction "Environmentalist" a pejorative? . . . more>>

On the road this week

September 26, 2011

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Kirsten and I are vacationing while working via a road trip from Torrey through Durango, Ouray, Paonia, Steamboat Springs and on to Denver for the Mountain and Plains booksellers trade show.  We plan to meet some authors along the way, to join Soren Jespersen of the Wilderness Society for dinner one night and to poke […]

Help the Economy and Burn Fat!

September 23, 2011

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Count the ways that public lands and natural landscape are valuable. You might not have heard this one yet, but Jodi Peterson of High Country News says, "Two new studies show that public lands are valuable because – wait for it – they burn fat and generate dollars. A Forest Service study published recently estimates that last year, visitors to the nation's forests burned a collective 290 billion calories. That's 83 million pounds of body fat -- measured in French fries, enough to reach to the moon and back." Who knew? . . . more>>

Bark Beetle Infestation Accelerating

September 23, 2011

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Kirsten and I are taking a drive through western Colorado next week, working our way up from Durango, through Silverton, Paonia, Steamboat Springs and the Rocky Mountain National Park to Denver for the Mountain and Plains booksellers trade show there. Along the way we are going to see alarming, heartbreaking swaths of rust colored evergreens. Warming winters have allowed waves of beetles to gnaw their way through millions of acres of forests in Utah and across the West. It's sadly amusing to watch the western politicians blame a lack of logging. But the problem is climate change and the beetles are getting worse, not better. Brandon Loomis has a terrific essay in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday covering the bark beetle sad state of affairs. . . . more>>

Nature Writing, Curmudgeon Style

September 23, 2011

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Dennis Hinkamp never cared much for nature writing as a genre because, he says, usually there's too much wafting, glimmering and shimmering. "Things seem to happen outdoors that seldom happen in real life. Animals, for instance, often come off seeming more noble, contemplative and spiritual than humans. I think nature can be just as drunk, self-indulgent and spiteful as any human being, which is why my backyard has come to serve as the perfect setting for a short story by that master of gritty fiction, Elmore Leonard." Takes a curmudgeon to know one, this essay made me smile. . . . more>>

Environmental Economist

September 23, 2011

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Gernot Wagner is, as he admits amusingly, a seeming contradiction: an environmental economist. Readers will perceive a second contradiction: he's an economist and policy wonk who you would actually want to talk to at a party. Unintended consequences are always a bugaboo with government policy. Wagner explains in his new book But Will the Planet Notice, How Smart Economics Can Save the Worldwhy the no expenses spared aspect of the Endangered Species Act makes it do more harm than good, but why a cap and trade is imperative. . . . more>>

Fracking Good Read

September 22, 2011

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At Torrey House Press we hope to create wider appreciation for the conservation issues in the American West through philosophy and literature. People's Press came out with a novel this year that is a good prototype of the kind of thing we would like to publish down the road. Buried by the Roan is a murder mystery set in the Flat Tops Wilderness in western Colorado. The mountain wild and the oil and gas industry's hydraulic fracking both play major roles in the drama. Congratulations to author Mark Stevens. . . . . more>> Reviewed in the Colorado Springs Independent here and in High Country News here.

Cows and Pristine Mountain Lakes

September 22, 2011

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The first time I thought I ought to get involved in conservation was on a hike up to Meeks Lake on Boulder Mountain in southern Utah years ago. Meeks is a should-be shining jewel of a pristine mountain lake, but in the summer it is treated like a stock yard. There was cow shit everywhere, cows in the water, the grass was hammered and the place stank. Ed Abbey called it "cow burnt." In fact, fire might be better for the land than over grazing. I noticed that the livestock gates were open all the way up the mountain, the grass was gone everywhere, and when I got home I wrote the Forest Service. They said, "Oops, sorry about that, thanks for writing." It is still like that years later and I have learned to my dismay that, indeed, livestock rules - and ranchers break the rules with impunity. What's up with that? Here's a lively conversation amongst the residents around Sun Valley, Idaho who have a similar experience. . . . .more>>

Post-Primeval Poop Primer

September 22, 2011

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The first shit in the woods is a pure rite of passage for any mountain person. Sure, you can be a casual day hiker for years and avoid it, and maybe even last through a few overnight trips. But sooner or later, you’ll need to confront your ancestral self and drop one amongst the evergreens, without your favorite magazine, scented candle, or plush bathroom rug under your toes. Brendon Leonard takes us for a true out back journey. . . .more>>