Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Let's Celebrate Wilderness! 3

Aldo Leopold was the first to use the word wilderness to describe the areas he wanted to be preserved in the National Forests. He worked in the Forest Service where he was tasked with killing predators hated by local ranchers. He came to respect these animals and promoted an ecologic ethic that replaced the 'dominance of man' thinking that came to the United States with the settlers, with an approach that recognized that the balance of nature required predators for a healthy forest. His efforts resulted in the world's first designated Wilderness, the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico's Gila National Forest.

Aldo Leopold
Leopold famously wrote in an essay, "Of what avail are 40 freedoms without a blank spot on the map?" In 1935, he helped to found The Wilderness Society (along with Robert Sterling Yard, Benton MacKay, Bob Marshall, and Harvey Broome) which is dedicated to expanding, protecting and promoting a wilderness land ethic.

Shortly after his death in 1948, a collection of his essays were published as "A Sand Country Almanac." This book has been published in twelve languages and continues to be an important reference for modern conservationists.

More on the history of Wilderness next week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Let's Celebrate Wilderness! 2

Thomas Moran's
 "Tower Creek, Yellowstone"
In 1872, Yellowstone was designated a "public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people." Note that the National Park Service wasn't created until 1916, and so, in these early years, Yellowstone wasn't afforded much protection. But the creation of the park was important as it planted the idea that lands could be set aside by the government even if the idea of actual protection lagged behind.

John Muir in 1872
In the 1870s, John Muir began writing about the importance of nature and was published in many magazines. His letters, essays and books were read widely, and were an influence on the thinking about preserving natural areas. In 1874, John Wesley Powell wrote a series of articles that generated public interest in the Grand Canyon.

The "Indian Wars" came to and end with the sad battle at Wounded Knee in 1890, and John Muir creates the Sierra Club in 1892 to enlist public and governmental support for the idea of preserving natural areas. Frederick Jackson Turner read a paper at the the American Historical Meeting in Chicago declaring that "the frontier is dead" in 1893. At the close of the century, Gifford Pinchot is appointed as Chief of the Division of Forestry for the country, which later became the National Forest Service, as the government began conservation of natural resources.

The next 50 years, 1900 - 1950, saw an increasingly ardent movement growing around the protection of natural places. The growth of the railroad opened up access to the western part of the country, including the Santa Fe which brought tourists to the Grand Canyon. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in Florida. The use of the Executive Order by sitting Presidents has been invaluable in protecting public lands.

Grand Canyon from Powell Point
Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1930 and wrote,
 "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see." 
 In 1906, the passage of the Antiquities Act allows Presidents to establish National Monuments and Devil's Tower becomes the nation's first followed by Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908.

In 1913, a major conservation fight is lost when a dam is allowed at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite. This loss boosts the determination of the environmental movement to increase their efforts for protection. Between 1920 and 1929, Arthur Carhart, Aldo Leopold, Robert Sterling Yard and others advance the idea of national wilderness preservation through their writings and appearances around the country.

Stay tuned -- more on the history of Wilderness next week.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interview with Brian Murdock of the Manti-La Sal National Forest

We recently caught up with Brian Murdock, the Recreation, Wilderness & Trails Manager for the Monticello/Moab ranger district of the Manti-La Sal National Forest to talk about our work in the Dark Canyon Wilderness; our next project there is May 11 - 14, 2014.
"The area that I am fortunate to manage is the Dark Canyon Wilderness. I have heard it referred to as the wild heart of the Colorado Plateau and I like that description. I believe one of its most unique qualities is the solitude it offers. As more and more of our wildlands are seeing increasing use, the logistics of getting into the area and the sheer remoteness of the canyon makes use relatively low in the Dark Canyon area. If you want a real wilderness experiences with a good chance of being completely alone and you are prepared, this is the place.
We are always in need of trail work. The wilderness is a dynamic system and keeping trails open and passable is a Herculean task that never ends. Wilderness Volunteers has put a lot of time into helping the US Forest Service remove tamarisk which we finished up in 2013.
Currently the recreation and wilderness staff on our district consists of two full time employees and 5-7 seasonal employees. The reality of our work is that we cannot meet all of the demands we have in managing developed and dispersed recreation, trails (non-motorized and motorized), outfitter and guides, and our winter recreation program on two different mountain ranges (the LA Sals and the Abajo/Elk Ridge) with the staff we have. Volunteers are a necessity if we want to fulfill our management responsibilities and Wilderness Volunteers has been one of our best partners in achieving our wilderness management goals. 
Our most recent projects with Wilderness Volunteers has included two annual trips each year for the past 8 years. In the spring we have conducted tamarisk inventories and removal and in the fall we do cultural inventories of the area. In 2013 we cleared the final tamarisk from the wilderness (that we know about). It was very satisfying to be able to clear all of the springs and wetlands of the invasive trees. I am sure there are still some lurking out there but  Wilderness Volunteers made the Dark Canyon Wilderness a much more natural and wild place with the work they did removing tamarisk. We also conducted a trail project this year in the La Sal mountains with Wilderness Volunteers that was very successful. The enthusiasm of the volunteers is always infectious. I love introducing people to new areas and watching them fall in love with Dark Canyon and the other areas we manage.
You can continue to give back when not on a WV project by educating everyone around you about the importance of public lands and in particular about wilderness. I think a lot of the American public have major misconceptions about wilderness. Having Wilderness Volunteers telling others about their volunteer trips and their accomplishments can go a long way in educating the public about wilderness and its management."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Let's Celebrate Wilderness!

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Johnson on September 3rd, 1964. Wilderness Volunteers is planning a year long celebration of the Act, and is a sponsor of Wilderness 50th, a coalition of federal agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other wilderness user groups whose purpose is to raise awareness of this important piece of legislation and the need for Wilderness. We'll be blogging and tweeting about Wilderness weekly, and look forward to reading your comments about the role Wilderness plays in your life.

Frederick Law Olmsted
The Act was first drafted in 1949, but the idea to set aside special areas to protect them from the degradations of logging, mining, agriculture and development began with the beginnings of the environmental movement in the late 1800s. Frederick LawOlmstead pushed for protection of Yosemite Valley in 1864, and is widely held as first to advocate the idea of placing certain scenic natural areas under government protection. He is believed to be the start of the national conversation that got folks to start thinking about how quickly the US was being exploited. Around this same time, George P. Marsh publishes Man and Nature, warning citizens to stop the devastation of natural resources.

In 1867, a Kiowa Nation Chief, Satanta, recognized the effects of encroaching civilization and voiced opposition to construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at a council held at Fort Larned, Kansas. While Native Americans didn't have much sway at the time and went on to suffer greatly at the hands of the new country, their plight was noticed by the fledgling environmental movement.

More on the history leading to the Wilderness Act next week.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A New Year's Resolution with Motivation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are more people who do not engage in leisure-time physical activity than those who do.
John Moeller getting
ready for a project

This year, resolve to be in your best shape ever. You'll feel better, look better and have more energy. Staying in shape is you taking an active role in your health and well-being.

Signing up for a WV project is a great motivation for keeping your fitness goals. As the project start date draws nearer, you'll feel yourself getting stronger, leaner and ready for adventure.

Getting into shape can start with talking a walk each day around your neighborhood, or with walking or biking to and from work each day.  Even if you live too far from work to make this reasonable, you can park further from work and walk that last mile everyday. Regular everyday activity like these daily walks are an important start to staying fit throughout life.

Check this blogpost for ideas on exercises.