Sunrise Over Ogallala Capstone, The Nature Conservancy Fox Ranch in Yuma County, Colorado
With the Keystone XL pipeline in the news these days, this image came to mind. I made the photograph while working on my Prairie Thunder book; thinking of a way to somehow make an image of the Ogallala Aquifer, water source of the Great Plains. At the time, the most immediate threat to the Ogallala Aquifer was rapid draw down during a drought. These white sandstone blocks on a ridge above the Arickaree River are the capstone for the Ogallala formation, the aquifer system of a 174,000 square mile underground lake. The Keystone XL Pipeline would transport the world’s dirtiest oil from Canada tar sands over the Great Plains freshwater source, risking the lifeblood of middle America. It’s mind-boggling that we’re at this stage, even considering putting so much at risk for the filthiest energy on planet earth. Let’s hope President Obama keeps his promise to fight for the climate – draw a line in the sand, Mr. President.
The Prairie Dog Coalition held their annual “Living On Burrowed Time” fund-raising event in Boulder over the weekend; and once again it was a grand event and a big success. In just a few short years, PDC has become one of the most important conservation groups in the West and part of the Humane Society of the United States. Ted Turner was honored as Prairie Dog Protector Of The Year and spoke about his Western ranches and ranching philosophy, telling the group “we don’t kill nothin’!” Ted’s ranches have saved 250,000 prairie dogs and Ted spoke about the role of this keystone species in building healthy, sustainable ecosystems. There’s no one quite like Ted Turner, but what if more ranchers adopted his “don’t kill nothin'” philosophy? With half of the West in private land ownership, that may be our best conservation opportunity.
Congratulations to Mr. Ted Turner, Lindsey Sterling-Krank and PDC for raising awareness and making a huge difference in prairie dog ecosystems across the West!
My article, titled “Too Wild To Drill” is in the 2011/2012 Wilderness Magazine (page 44). The article details the contested plan to drill in the Wyoming Range; specifically Noble Basin of the Upper Hoback region in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Many thanks to The Wilderness Society for your leadership in the community and efforts to preserve this critically imortant area! For all of those folks that say drill everywhere now, check out what Ted Williams wrote in his blog about the sustainable economic value that sportsmen bring to the table here.
“This project is about more than just wildlife and stunning landscapes — it’s about the people that live, work and recreate along the Front,” said Barb Cozzens, the Northwest Wyoming director for GYC.
“This is a community-driven and community-owned project. We want the community to help inform Dave’s work, and ultimately own the finished product.”
I just completed the second of three photo expeditions for the Tripods In The Mud Absaroka Front project, sponsored by Greater Yellowstone Coalition. I’m getting to know the area better, meeting wonderful people, and continue to focus on the remarkable diversity that makes the Absaroka-Beartooth Front one of the most important areas in the West.
Warm morning light brings out the brilliant colors in autumn tundra along the Greybull Pass Trail. Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming.
I just returned from the second expedition of the Absaroka Tripods In The Mud Campaign on the east side of Yellowstone National Park (check out the blog on the ILCP site). The project is a collaboration with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the International League of Conservation Photographers aimed at keeping the Absaroka-Beartooth Front the way it is – free from industrialization where it’s wholly incompatible with wildlife, migrations, Western lifestyle, and recreation. The expedition was ten days with a trip to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition annual meeting in Jackson last weekend. It was great to meet the GYC staff and get to know members, to see so many passionate conservationists in one place here in the West. I got to know the landscape better on this expedition too – how things are connected, wildlife corridors, and the scale of the AB Front. I also saw first hand how devastating drilling contamination from bad fracking jobs is for people and watersheds. I’m completely convinced that the AB Front is the most important wild land remaining in the West and proud to be partnering with Greater Yellowstone Coalition to see that it stays that way.
Please check back – I’ll be posting a photo essay here soon.
Our annual group 14er trip was a small gathering in the Lizard Head Wilderness this year. We had a great time with Annie and Mike Goodwin – others had excuses – Chris Park was in New Zealand, Jack and Claudia are getting ready for three months in S. America, Tim and Amelia Poppe are having a baby. Really? We made the trip anyway, beginning in Telluride, where we all bought new climbing helmets to take the place of helmets that were safely tucked away in the garage at home. Part one was a backpack into the very popular Navajo Basin, staging area for climbs of Wilson Peak and Mount Wilson. We successfully climbed class 3 Wilson Peak on day two. Continue reading “San Juan Mountains – Photo Essay”→
It’s exciting to see my photograph of the Roan Cliffs on the cover of LightHawk’s annual report! LightHawk is just a remarkable organization – skilled volunteer pilots flying conservation missions wherever they’re needed and a great, professional and accomodating staff always ready to plan the next mission. I’ve flown four LightHawk missions in just over a year to make images of the West from a landscape perspective. My first mission was featured here, and conservation pilot and photographer Chris Boyer was featured here. My Wyoming wind farm mission was on National Geographic Newswatch as an ILCP Tripods In The Sky mission and I flew over the “Two Sides Of The Roan” in July. Last month, I flew with LightHawk over the Absaroka-Beartooth Front as part of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and ILCP Tripods In The Mud partnership that was also featured in NG Newswatch as “Thunderstruck“.
It’s been quite a year, LightHawk and I’m proud to be a LightHawk partner. I look forward to being a featured speaker at the annual Fly-In in Boise next month and continuing our work to protect important places in the West. Thanks for all you do!
The theme for the International League of Conservation Photographers September newsletter is “engage” and I’m the photographer of the month. My Absaroka-Beartooth Front Tripods In The Mud partnership with Greater Yellowstone Coalition is also featured. I’m proud to be an ILCP member and it’s an honor to be recognized for my Western conservation work.
* About the rodeo image – I had a great time photographing nature for the new Absaroka Campaign and shooting the rodeo was a riot! First, Tim Kellogg, rodeo cowboy, rancher, and the Meeteetse Chocolatierschooled me about rodeo and how well the rodeo stock is cared for. Then, Barbara Cozzens at GYC got me a press pass to photograph the rodeo. I used to go to rodeos when I lived in Laramie, but getting right down at arena level is a whole different ballgame. I had a lot of fun challenging myself with action and low light, and watching the rodeo athletes up close was pretty awesome.
We weren’t sure whether it was ok to follow through with our plans to climb Mount Elbert just a few days after 9-11. At 14,433 feet, Elbert is the highest peak in the Rockies and it was a tough day on the Black Cloud Trail both emotionally and physically. We reached the summit after about five hours of ascending and saw the large flag on top. There was another group on the peak at the same time and I recall that we all spoke in hushed voices, celebrating our expression of American freedom quietly. This image always takes me right back to the strange days following 9-11, the surreal coverage of the tragedies, and the lump in my throat on Mount Elbert that day.