Plan To Protect The Wyoming Range!

Daniel, Wyoming resident Dave Willoughby stands on the South Rim access road to Noble Basin. Dave, with the Citizens For The Wyoming Range has been a staunch advocate for protection of Noble Basin in the Wyoming Range’s Upper Hoback region of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time. I received a call from the Trust For Public Lands last week and learned of a new agreement to purchase the PXP gas leases in Noble Basin for $8.75 Million. The “what would it take?” question on the mind of everyone advocating for this special place has been answered. The leases for 136 wells to be drilled over decades in the heart of a Greater Yellowstone wildlife superhighway cost nearly $9 million and will be retired in perpetuity. You and I, and any other adventuresome soul can enjoy this place for all time. More importantly, our grandkids and great-grandkids can one day appreciate a legacy of stewardship. There’s still work to be done because TPL needs to raise half of the money to complete the purchase. If you care about Yellowstone, the West, wildlife, our Western heritage, or just have a big heart, go here and make a donation. I believe the Noble Basin/Upper Hoback is one of the most critically important places in the West and this is something we can all celebrate. Thank you to the conservation heroes at TPL!

TPL, Citizens For The Wyoming Range, The Wilderness Society, Wyoming Outdoor Council and others have been involved in this fight that’s galvanized stakeholders throughout the region since the beginning. I’ve been a Wyoming Range activist for the last couple of years and have written about the threat here, here , here, here, here, here and elsewhere.

The Wilderness Letter

Jack Morrow Hills, Pacific Butte, Atlantic Butte

Oregon Buttes Sunset : Prints Available

 The last light of the day warms Atlantic Butte and a skelton tree on top of Pacific Butte in the Oregon Buttes Wilderness Study Area. Jack Morrow Hills, northern Red Desert.

Earth Day 2012 is the April 22, and it just seems right to share Wallace Stegner’s 1960 Wilderness Letter here. It is hauntingly prescient 52 years later.

Los Altos, California

December 3, 1960

David E. Pesonen
Wildland Research Center
Agricultural Experiment Station
243 Mulford Hall
University of California
Berkeley 4, Calif.

Dear Mr. Pesonen:

I believe that you are working on the wilderness portion of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission’s report. If I may, I should like to urge some arguments for wilderness preservation that involve recreation, as it is ordinarily conceived, hardly at all. Hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain-climbing, camping, photography, and the enjoyment of natural scenery will all, surely, figure in your report. So will the wilderness as a genetic reserve, a scientific yardstick by which we may measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its man-made imbalance. What I want to speak for is not so much the wilderness uses, valuable as those are, but the wilderness idea, which is a resource in itself. Being an intangible and spiritual resource, it will seem mystical to the practical minded–but then anything that cannot be moved by a bulldozer is likely to seem mystical to them. Continue reading “The Wilderness Letter”

Conservation Flyer Chris Boyer

Chris Boyer hard at work in the red plane.

Award-winning conservation photopgrapher, owner of Kestrel Aerial Services, and LightHawk volunteer pilot Chris Boyer is based in Bozeman, Montana. I flew my first LightHawk mission (with the door off) with Chris last August and have been interested in his unique story ever since. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Chris’ perspective and will want to spend some time viewing his web galleries.

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, Kestrel Aerial and what you do?

I was raised a conservationist, and always knew that my life and career would be intimately bound up in rural and wild landscapes. I just never knew how. Still don’t. I moved west to work as a farmer, ranch hand, and outfitter and did that for many years until I decided to participate in a “real” economy to see what that was like. This led to working in landscape restoration, going to graduate school in hydrology and geomorphology, and then starting my own ecosystem restoration racket. Learning to fly was practically free at Oregon State University, and an incredible synergy quickly developed between my access to the aerial view, and my study of complex landscape dynamics. I knew that being a weekend pilot would not be enough for me so I worked very hard to find a similar synergy between money and airplanes, and began mapping restoration projects for my company, and then expanding to other natural resource professionals. Although constantly using the aerial view to inform my techniques of ecosystem restoration, I became aware that from the air, I was witnessing much more of the landscape coming unraveled, than being patched together. This led me to devote my cameras and airplane towards more of an advocacy role. Continue reading “Conservation Flyer Chris Boyer”

Audubon Sage Campaign – Interview With Alison Holloran


“Sage Patterns, Gros Ventre River Basin, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming”

Before Thanksgiving, I interviewed Alison Holloran, Deputy Director of Audubon Wyoming. Alison works alongside Regional Director Brian Rutledge; and together they developed the Audubon Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative. Alison earned her master’s degree at the University of Wyoming, studying the effects of natural gas drilling on Greater sage grouse populations. She met her husband, Matt (renowned sage grouse researcher) on the Pinedale, WY Mesa and has spent her entire professional career working for sagebrush and sage grouse conservation. She is a conservation hero and I’ll post a picture of her here… whenever I can catch up with her in the field. Thanks to Alison for graciously giving your time and sharing your expertise.

Me: Why do sagebrush landscapes matter?

Alison: Sagebrush landscapes can be looked at from many different perspectives. First, the historic perspective; then the anthropogenic perspective. When you think of the American West, you think of sagebrush, kind of wide sweeping open plains, the cowboy story. We have a lot of history and love for the land just based on what we imagine the West to be. What we imagine is more important from the wildlife side. In Wyoming, we have some of the biggest expanses of sagebrush that dip down into Colorado and Utah, up into Montana, across the Great Basin and they provide a lot of wildlife habitat. Sagebrush provides range for mule deer and elk, which from the human side of things and economically, provides a stable base for hunting and ecotourism. Unfortunately, in the early days sagebrush was looked upon as a problem species – one that we needed to clear out for development and agricultural practices – so we really have taken out a lot of our sagebrush ecosystems and therefore a lot of our sagebrush obligates (species). We have seen mule deer populations diminish, we’ve seen sage grouse populations diminish, not to mention all of the other obligates that we don’t really think about, the bird species, sage thrasher, sage sparrow, Brewer’s sparrow, species like reptiles – you know people don’t like to think of snakes but they are out there as well, right down to the insects and the plant diversity has diminished. So we are looking at an ecosystem that is extremely important for many, many species of wildlife and hence very important for our economy in the West and yet we keep slicing it and dicing it and taking it away. We need to save our environment to save ourselves. And that’s really why I’m in it, not only for myself but also for my children. I’m trying to save some of the environment so that future generations have something to enjoy, to recreate in… Besides the grasslands, the sagebrush ecosystem is one of our most imperiled ecosystems in the United States. Continue reading “Audubon Sage Campaign – Interview With Alison Holloran”