Vedauwoo Rocks and Aspen On a Cold Winter Morning. Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming
Absolute cold has a way of cleansing the soul unlike anything else – life’s distractions disappear like frozen breath in sub-zero air. Purity of light, true blue sky, hoar frost on grass, sage, and chaotic aspen branches, and the crunch of snow underfoot make these mornings memorable. The sun’s warmth in little alcoves out of the wind is surprising in spite of the -12 F temperature. The raven doesn’t care that it’s so cold, but does scold me when I skirt a giant boulder and come into view. Other than a few LBJ’s (little brown jobs) that burst from a shrub, the raven is the only creature moving. Deer, rabbit, and fox tracks give clues to some other residents – maybe I’ll spot them next time. I used to come here in my teens and still get the same feeling of discovery, wonder, and peace today.
It’s official – The Trust For Public Land completed the purchase of PXP drilling leases in Noble Basin, the Upper Hoback River of the Wyoming Range. This is the single most important thing to happen in Western conservation in recent memory; not only because of the importance of this land to Greater Yellowstone, but for the way it happened – a grassroots effort that involved folks from across the spectrum, pulling together to preserve some of our Western heritage and create a lasting legacy. Thanks to TPL, TWS, WOC, Citizens For The Wyoming Range, Dan, Dave, Steff, Carl, and everyone who used your voice to stand for something so important. It’s a great day for Western conservation! The press release is here: (more…)
Composite panorama of a ferruginous hawk in flight. Red Desert, Wyoming
I’ve been looking at this set of ferruginous hawk images for months, thinking there’s something interesting here beyond a single frame of a hawk in flight – which I’m still happy with because ferruginous hawks summer in Wyoming’s sagebrush deserts and they’re a Federally threatened species. I fooled around with a timelapse, but that didn’t work becasue the bird blipped up and down in the frame, which could induce nausea. Looking at the series of 22 images, there’s this flight sequence that looks really rhythmic and the backgrounds are almost the same blue. I’ll keep fooling with it to get the blues to the same tonality, but I’m pretty happy with this for now. What do you think?
I returned late last week from an 8-day trip to the Cody area. My ambitious plan to photograph the big Yellowstone elk migration got rearranged because of fickle, dry, warm weather and other factors; so I recalibrated and focused on bighorn sheep and landscapes in transition. I’m still amazed at the wild diversity of the Absaroka Front – grizzly bears are still out, bighorn are mating, the Bighorn Basin has the highest density of golden eagle anywhere, and I photographed in alpine, sub-alpine, riparian, canyon, and sagebrush steppe ecosystems. Did I mention wind? It’s one of the most difficult challenges for a photographer to deal with, but it comes with the territory in Greater Yellowstone. Enjoy the photo essay: (more…)
Here’s your chance to do something amazing with a year end contribution or Black Friday purchase. Save a piece of Greater Yellowstone and preserve it for your kids and grandkids. The Trust For Public Land has done their part by agreeing to purchase existing gas leases and retire them in perpetuity. We have a window of opportunity to raise $4.75 million before the end of the year and every tax deductible donation helps. Just visit TPL and donate today. Imagine that $150 saves an acre from drilling!
I’m proud to be working with the top conservation organizations in the West, and Trust For Public Land, Wyoming Outdoor Council, and The Wilderness Society have been in this fight since the beginning. I made the image in this ad while flying a mission with LightHawk, specifically to photograph the Wyoming Range from an aerial perspective and I’m grateful for LightHawk’s support. I’ve written about Noble Basin many times here – a remarkable wildlife migration corridor and calving site for pronghorn, mule deer, elk, and most of the Yellowstone wildlife, including grizzly bears; an animal superhighway sandwiched between the Wyoming Range and Gros Ventre Range. It’s where wildlife migrate to and through in spring and fall, when snow covers nearby Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The purchase agreement is supported by a broad coalition of sportsmen, recreationists, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and other politicians, and the entire conservation community working in Greater Yellowstone. Donate today and feel great about saving one of the last truly special places in the West.
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.
What’s a bioblitz? Well, you get a bunch of folks together and document every living thing in a small area over a 24 hour period. There are biologists with a great depth of knowledge about everything that crawls, swims, runs, or flies,and regular folks who just care about special places. It’s a lot of fun and I was fortunate to photograph the event for Audubon. Click more to see my photo essay. (more…)
I just returned from two weeks in Yellowstone National Park, where I was working on my Sage Spirit book project. I was mostly focused on grizzly bears that are in the lower elevation sagebrush flats and meadows in spring. As summer heats up, it’s more difficult to find grizzlies as they move higher. I visited “Quad mom” every day for the first week, observing the sow and her two surviving, and nearly grown cubs foraging in the sagebrush on Swan Lake Flats for hours each day. The bears would rock back and forth as they pulled on roots and dug for bugs, bulbs, rodents – anything to satisfy an omnivorous appetite. They spent a couple of days on a bison carcass across the meadow a half mile distant. I only saw the sow and sub-adult cubs one more time after they ran to the forest one evening. Maybe she sent the cubs out on their own and prepared to mate? We’re fortunate to be able to observe these noble creatures – long may they roam! (more…)
One of the ways that I stay current on Western conservation and land management is through Google Alerts, and lately I’ve been seeing blog posts with a “wasted government lands” theme. This Arizona Republic article tells us that the U.S. government, mostly the BLM and US Forest Service, manage millions of acres of Western lands that would be better in the hands of locals – because they live here. Don’t be fooled by this thinly veiled Sagebrush Rebellion mumbo-jumbo. (more…)