It's more like a chirp and prairie dogs aren't dogs... There are five species of prairie dogs in North America and all are imperiled due to habitat loss and a host of other reasons. These rodents are primarily sage dwellers and a keystone species for the ecosystem. Prairie dogs can communicate in sentences and form strong family bonds.
Announcing the new green donate button for the Sage Spirit project! My Sage Spirit conservation project requires extensive travel and funding to be able to make images and tell the story. The new green button to the upper left allows donors to give in a tax deductible way that helps me stay in the field doing project work. I’m working with a great publisher with big plans for a book, multimedia, social media, speaking engagements, a traveling photo exhibit and more. I’m targeting next year (2014) to complete the project and need to raise roughly $36,000 for field expenses. Contributing is a piece of cake: Click the “Donate Now” button which will take you to the Sage Spirit page – click that “Donate Now” button and make a contribution, noting Sage Spirit. That’s it. You’ll get a tax-deductible receipt and Laramie Audubon Society, my awesome fiscal sponsor will cut me a check. Thanks for your support and feel free to tell your friends!
Ice Crystals On The Gunnison River, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado
While in Gunnison last week, I took a walk at Neversink in the Curecanti NRA on a twelve below zero morning looking for photo possibilities along the Gunnison River. The river is a frozen trickle in mid-winter, with small patches of open water surrounded by a cottonwood gallery forest. It’s a vital riparian area, with woody vegetation to give birds and rabbits cover – a wildlife oasis in the sage. I like to check the holes in the cottonwoods for an owl or a flicker, sometimes a raccoon. There were deer, rabbit, and coyote tracks in the snow and these interesting patterns of ice crystals on the frozen river. I talked to Western State College University wildlife biologist and professor Pat Magee about the crystals that form when dry cold air pulls moisture from the ice. Pat explained that the process goes from gas to solid, skipping liquid altogether. The crystals disappear as the valley warms and will reform when conditions are right, darn cold and dry. Fascinating, don’t you think?
This drilling rig is on the edge of a development near Frederick, Colorado, in the I-25 corridor. The corridor between Denver and Fort Collins is mixed ag land and housing development, with rigs, pumpjacks, and compressor stations bumping up against housing. My map calls this the Spindle Oil Field.
I travel the I-25 corridor to Fort Collins regularly and mark the increase in energy development along the route, drilling rigs in corn and sunflower fields next to housing developments. Colorado is considering new setback regulations to regulate minimum distances between drilling pads and various types of development. Knowing what we know today about fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and the proprietary cocktail of 550 or so chemicals that get pumped into the earth to release gas and oil, what’s a comfortable distance to live in proximity to a drill pad? Is 350 feet far enough? (current housing reg.) How about 500? One of the comments in a recent Greeley Tribune article caught my eye: “We acknowledge that public interest is driving the call for increased setbacks, and we are interested in discussing the practices that can address these concerns in urban drilling,” COGA president and CEO Tisha Schuller said recently in a prepared release. “At the same time, we cannot forget the stakeholders most affected by drilling. Any setback solution must acknowledge the legal, regulatory, and technical complexity of well-siting.” (more…)
Brooke Palmer, a seasonal trapper with the Colorado Division of Wildlife holds a female Gunnison Sage-grouse. The grouse was trapped and collared for relocation to “seed” a satellite lek outside of the Gunnison Basin.
It’s been a long wait for a Gunnison Sage-grouse (GuS-g) listing decision and the Jan. 10 US Fish and Wildlife News Release didn’t surprise anyone close to the issue. The Service officially proposed listing the Gunnison Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the News Release, the USFWS applauded local partners and agencies – and rightfully so, Gunnison formed a GuS-g working group years ago, bringing together the entire extended community where grouse habitat exists. Ranchers, conservation groups, Western State College, land managers, and government agencies are on the same page and managing the grouse as if they were already listed. Sisk-A-Dee is managing the public viewing blind and special events like the Gunnison Sage-grouse Festival so people actually have an opportunity to see and learn about the grouse.The ESA is a powerful tool and it’s not easy to get a species listed – there’s a long waiting list of “Warranted But Precluded” species deserving of ESA protection. But there are only 4,000 or so GuS-g’s left in the world, mostly in the Gunnison Basin, literally all of the eggs in one basket, so they had to be listed. (more…)
We went to see Chasing Ice at the Boulder Theatre last night – it’s the story of our time. James Balog inspires with his superhuman dedication to the story; and the footage, well you’ll just have to see it to believe it. Whether you’re a climate change believer or not, go see this movie! Afterwards, James (who lives in Boulder) came out and answered questions. He shared a message of hope in spite of what we had just witnessed. This was an event that we’ll never forget.
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.
I’ll be back with acclaimed photographer Michael Forsberg at one of the best venues in the land and we’ll photograph sandhill cranes in the San Luis Valey at the peak of the spring migration – when up to 27,000 cranes visit the valley! We’ll also explore the Zapata Preserve, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and more. It’s a great photo experience in a supportive environment – and Chef Mike’s meals are pretty awesome too. Click the link above if you’re intersted in joining us or just call (719) 378-2356 – 888-5-zapata (toll free) e: email@example.com
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…)
The first sunrise of the new year squeezes through a gap in the clouds to light the Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado
Partly because we could have the gargantuan vegetarian breakfast at Turley’s, we headed out with Abby the labby for a walk below the Flatirons to welcome in the new year. A simple study of a place that we love.
Sage Spirit’s progress and success depends on having the financial resources to travel, make images, and bring the story to stakeholders across the U.S. Read more about this conservation project and donate here.