Night Work In Costa Rica

Las Baulas National Park Office at Playa Grande Pacific Coast, Costa Rica

In the oddest of circumstances, I couldn’t imagine that we’d be watching Hangover II with strangers at a national park office on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast in the middle of the night. But there we were, laughing out loud while we waited for a call from the beach patrol. Las Baulas National Park on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast opens for high tides at night from October to February – leatherback sea turtle nesting season. After sunset on the beach and blackened tuna with jasmine rice and mango salsa, we arrived at 10:00 p.m. to check in and wait for a one ton turtle to haul herself from the depths of the Pacific at high tide, dig a hole, and lay eggs somewhere on this beach. Continue reading “Night Work In Costa Rica”

Mayflower Gulch Winter

Winter In Mayflower Gulch, Arapaho National Forest, Colorado. Fletcher Mountain (13,951′) looks like it was sketched into the backdrop as light snow fell.

We make a pilgrimage to Mayflower Gulch at least once a winter. It’s an easy snowshoe or ski up to Boston Mine, situated at timberline beneath hulking peaks and a jagged ridge in the Tenmile Range. Our plan (in Feb, ’11) to photograph sunset changed with Mother Nature’s muse, offering light snow and flocked pine with glimses of 13,000 foot peaks.

BLM’s New Greater Sage-grouse Plan

greater sage grouse, lek

Greater Sage Grouse on Lek : Prints Available

 A male Greater sage grouse displays for a female during lekking, or mating season. Sage grouse carry on the elaborate mating ritual from around late March to early May, often in foul weather. Considered an umbrella, or keystone species for the health of the sagebrush ecosystem, the Greater sage grouse is "warranted, but precluded" from ESA protection.
Centrocercus urophasianus

This week the Bureau Of Land Management (BLM) announced their new strategy to implement a Greater Sage-grouse management plan across the ten state sagebrush ecosystem where the birds live. The plan adopts the core habitat strategy from Wyoming and includes Interim Management (IM) guidance for the full range of land use that impacts grouse –
Vegetation Management
Wildfire Emergency Stabilization and Burned Area Rehabilitation
Wildfire Suppression and Fuels Management
Rights of way for facilities such as roads, powerlines, pipelines and wind farms
Leasable minerals, such as coal, oil and gas
Locatable minerals, such as gold, silver and copper
Saleable minerals, such as sand, stone and gravel
Travel Management
Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Control and Management
Wild Horse and Burro Management
Realty Actions, such as land exchanges, transfers and sales; and
Vegetation and Resources Monitoring
Continue reading “BLM’s New Greater Sage-grouse Plan”

Absaroka Photo Essay

Presenting images from the third photo expedition for the Absaroka Tripods In The Mud project in November. It’s been a rewarding experience working with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and ILCP so far and I’m looking forward to the next phase – hopefully, we’ll launch a traveling photo exhibit to help us protect the A-B Front. The November trip was dramatically different, with short days, big wind, wintery conditions, and ungulates beginning to move from the high country. Hunting season for elk and deer was still going on, so sightings were limited. I enjoyed observing bighorn at the start of mating season – sheep that migrate from Yellowstone. And although bears are supposed to be hibernating by early November, tracks were everywhere, as grizzlies continued to feed on gut piles left by hunters. Thanks to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition for sponsoring this Tripods In The Mud project – it speaks volumes for their commitment to protection of the A-B Front. Thanks to ILCP for supporting the initative and amplifying the call for conserving “Yellowstone’s wild side”.

jim mountain, breccia, north fork canyon

Jim Mountain Spires : Prints Available

 Volcanic breccia spires at the base of Jim Mountain catch golden morning light in North Fork Canyon.
Continue reading “Absaroka Photo Essay”

Autumn Muse

Blue Ridge Colors Abstract, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

This image was made on a whim from the backseat of my brother in law’s car on a visit last month, following my muse while a blur of color whizzed by. It’s time for Marla and I to go searching for another muse…

Coming soon, a photo essay from the Absaroka Tripods In The Mud Project.

Absaroka Reflections

I wrote this blog for the ILCP Tripods In The Mud site and thought I’d share it here too.

Juvenile Bighorn Sheep, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

Reflecting on the Absaroka Tripods In The Mud Project

A blustery November wind sends a chill through North Fork Canyon, which is of no concern to mating bighorn sheep. I visited the sheep for several days in a row to give our Tripods In The Mud story a heartbeat, thinking occasionally about the future of bighorns and their rightful place as a Rocky Mountain icon. Mostly, I was just trying to make compelling images of a majestic creature that migrates from Yellowstone National Park to grassy winter range in North Fork Canyon. It’s natural to focus on the big rams with their full curl that wraps under the eye. That’s what I was doing when this juvenile approached me and looked straight into my lens, captivating me with his translucent eyes. The moment lasted for a burst of images, just a few seconds.

Bighorn sheep have been reduced to less than 10% of their historic population and are among the species that Greater Yellowstone Coalition advocates for. They are vulnerable to disease from domestic sheep; and because bighorns travel long distances, their range frequently overlaps. Bighorn sheep need freedom to roam between winter and summer range, a classic case for protecting critical lands outside of national parks. They are both emblematic of the Rocky Mountain Region and the struggle to protect both our natural and Western heritage. Continue reading “Absaroka Reflections”

Happy Thanksgiving News!

Dave Willoughby of Daniel, Wyoming is shrounded in fog and mule’s ear sunflowers on the South Rim above the planned Noble Basin/Upper Hoback industrial gas field in Sublette County. Dave is a member of Citizens For The Wyoming Range and a stauch advocate for protection of this critical area.

Good News! Yesterday, Jaqueline Buchanan, Forest Supervisor of the Bridger Teton National Forest announced that a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) will be required for Houston-based PXP Energy’s plan to drill in the Upper Hoback region of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). That means that the process starts anew, with a full SEIS followed by a public comment period. The new SEIS wil account for all of the things we’ve learned over the last six years – road density and associated fragmentation, truck trips, threats to air and water with new monitoring techniques, threats to wildlife, like the largest population of moose in the GYE, threatened mule deer and pronghorn migrations, imperiled cutthroat trout, and endangered grizzly bears and lynx. The last go-round generated 60,000 comments, most overwhelmingly opposed to the plan that would also destroy some of the most important hunting and fishing lands anywhere. Thanks to Jacque for your courageous decision and congratulations to the good folks at Citizens For The Wyoming Range. I’m inspired by your united line in the sand and undaunting opposition while standing up for our natural and Western Heritage. Happy Thanksgiving!

$1 Trillion

Scott Christensen of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition fishes the Greybull River in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest. The Greybull is a world class fishery in northwest Wyoming, with a long stretch of Yellowstone cutthroat trout water, an imperiled keystone species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

A new report revealed that conservation, recreation, and preservation contribute a whopping $1 trillion per year to the US economy! It’s a stunning number by any measure that should give pause to officials considering development in important natural and recreation areas. I’ve often wondered why sportsmen (and women), recreationists, bird watchers, photographers and others get little recognition as the West gets carved up for industry; and it’s starting to make sense. Industry has the loudest voice, the biggest PR machine, employs a lot of people (the TV ads say that gas employs 9.3 million folks), and contributes to county coffers. It’s the reason that Pinedale, WY, with no stoplights, has an astroturf HS football field and a world-class aquatic center. They also have worse air quality than LA in winter… Big Oil’s unrelenting lobbying and PR has worked so well that the nation overlooked the negatives associated with fracking for “clean natural gas” until the big population centers back east started screaming about the Marcellus Shale boom and threats to NYC’s watershed. Big Oil has done a great job of making us believe that hydraulic fracturing is somehow good for us. They’ve also transformed the American landscape in a little over a decade – fracking is in its infancy and we’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg of impacts (think Titanic).

Before I get too far down the road of my fracking rant, what about that $1 trillion in conservation, outdoor recreation, and preservation? Decision makers take it for granted, simple. It will always be there, right? Hunters will buy ATV’s, camo gear, guns, stay in rural cabins, eat a few meals out and buy beer at the local watering hole; they always have. Fisherman, birders, mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, backpackers too. Money from industry is extra revenue on top of those recreation dollars, right? How else are you going to build an aquatic center in rural Wyoming? Granted, we don’t have lobbyists or fancy tv ads, so no seat at the table, but $1 trillion and 9.4 million jobs should be worth something for outdoor recreation. It’s sustainable money that gets spent every year and it’s taken for granted. What happens if the next generation decides it’s not worth it to recreate around the fringes of loud, polluted industrial zones that use up our public lands, our natural heritage for filthy energy extraction? They stop spending in those rural towns, that’s what.

The solution is simple, and extremely complicated. Complicated because we have a political environment that’s as toxic as a gas field. Simple because we could get some really smart people together and draw polygons around our most treasured and important lands, preserving migrations and cores, and protecting our natural and recreational heritage. Then we regulate energy producers and make them pay their way to use our lands. We could get it done in a week; but it would take courage, and that’s the problem.