Instinct/Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway

Page 1

IN S TIN C T/ E X TINCT: TH E G RE AT PAC IF IC F LY WAY A Collab or ative Exhi bi t i on

IN S TIN C T/ E X TINCT: TH E G RE AT PAC IF IC F LY WAY A Collab or ative Exhibi t i on

300 copies printed Instinct/Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway, A Collaborative Exhibition

January 24–February 25, 2017

Art Space on Main Department of Art School of the Arts California State University, Stanislaus One University Circle Turlock, CA 95382

This exhibition and catalog have been funded by: Associated Students Instructionally Related Activities, California State University, Stanislaus and the exhibition also funded by the James Irvine Foundation

Copyright Š 2017 California State University, Stanislaus All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the publisher.

Catalog design and production: Brad Peatross, School of the Arts, California State University, Stanislaus Catalog printing: Claremont Print, Claremont, CA Catalog photography: courtesy of the artists. Photographs included are used under the permission of the artists.

ISBN: 978-1-940753-24-9

CONTEN T S Director’s Foreword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Artist’s Inquiry by Valerie Constantino. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Essay by Philip Garone, Ph.D.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Artists’ Statement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Installation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Artists’ Bios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Research Sources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

D IRE C TO R ’S FO R E WORD Instinct/Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway represents a wonderful opportunity to view the collaborative work of Valerie Constantino, Glenda Drew and Ann Savageau. Accomplished artists, writers and educators, they bring together incredible skills and make work that crosses boundaries. Exhibits such as this will make people stop, learn, understand and benefit from the underlying messages represented in this work. This exhibition deals with the seasonal migration of millions of birds along the Great Pacific Flyway. For many gallery patrons, this will be the first time they have been exposed to a fragile natural occurrence of annual migration that is an important part of the world in which we live. I am very happy to be able to be part of this exhibition and to be able to share this work for others to enjoy. I would like to thank the many colleagues that have been helpful in presenting this exhibition.Valerie Constantino, Glenda Drew and Ann Savageau for the chance of exhibiting their work; Philip Garone, Ph.D. for his perceptive writing; the School of the Arts, California State University, Stanislaus for the catalog design; and Claremont Print and Copy for the printing of this catalog. Much appreciation is also extended to the Instructionally Related Activates Program of California State University, Stanislaus, as well as anonymous donors for the funding of the exhibition and catalogue. Their support is greatly appreciated.

Dean De Cocker, Director Art Space on Main and University Art Gallery California State University, Stanislaus


Annual Bird Migration, Chico, CA video still by Glenda Drew

Bird migration is the one truly unifying natural phenomenon in the world, stitching the continents together in a way that even the great weather systems, which roar out from the poles but fizzle at the equator, fail to do. It is an enormously complex subject, perhaps the most compelling drama in all of natural history.1 – Scott Weidensaul


ART IS T ’S I NQU I RY Instinct/Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway - A Collaborative Exhibition by Valerie Constantino The collaborative exhibition Instinct/Extinct evolved in response to our mutual love and concerns for migratory birds, their survival and the preservation of open space. Throughout the preparatory stages, our reciprocal research and fieldwork coalesced with our individual ways of working, generating a cross-disciplinary approach. These excerpted writings track the creative and speculative processes of selected works. The ubiquitous road map, those redolent Rand-McNally predecessors to our current day satellite-dependent Global Positioning Systems, evolved with the science of cartography, a reductive portrait of the earth via the grid. Technological honing over time offers evermore accurate representations of relative scale, expanding our ability to navigate land, ocean, sky, space and time. Less systematized visualizations of place sometimes called story maps were used well before grid maps became commonplace. Though not always specific to dis-

Collaborative map with silk suspension and portraits of at-risk birds. photo by Valerie Constantino

tance or boundary, story maps describe contextual, mythological aspects of land, expressing intimate relationships between traveler and place. Our collaborative approach to mapping engendered a marriage of geometry and narrative. Offering a bird’seye view of California’s terrain, our representation of the state’s borders is to scale with markers for major cities including You are Here. Story maps are nuanced and substantive, and the materials and methods

We cannot navigate and place ourselves

of choice are part of the story our map tells. Layered textiles recount the

only with maps that make the landscape

history of place and time. A first layer of cotton muslin illustrates California’s original wetlands, so critical to the survival of migratory birds. An overlay of sheer silk depicts the meager present-day remnants of these environments (in darker blues) while revealing the contrasting view of

dream-proof, impervious to the imagination. … once wonder has been chased from our thinking about the land, then we are lost.2 – Robert MacFarlane


the former terrain. Cloth is fluid and textural, like the surface of the earth and its bodies of water. It is pliable and porous, and readily accepts various markings: the drawn or painted line as well the stitched. Drawing deciphers what the eye perceives through gestures of the hand. As pigmented media leaves its mark upon a receptive surface, our relationship to that which is observed deepens. The measured act of sewing connects us to the physicality of birds and their movements, lifting us out of our everyday relationship to time. Here, embroidered meanders suggest the varying flyway routes of sea, shore, land birds and waterfowl, while acrylic cabochons containing hand-drawn portraits of vulnerable species are placed in proximity to their migratory range. Beyond spatial orientation and material narratives, our map installation considers Collaborative map detail with portraits of at-risk birds. photo by Valerie Constantino

the relationships between the earthbound and those who take to sky unaided by fossil fuel. It is wholly possible throughout our hyper-industrialized lives to overlook our airborne cousins, as they cross over and beyond our borders. As an emblematic cue, an expanse of diaphanous

silk floats above the terrain. With threads of varying qualities and hues, soaring birds as bright, shiny needles stitch the sky, sea, earth and all of life together into a vast global network. Indigenous cultures across time and place incorporate found materials and objects from life as it is lived: the hide of an animal hunted for sustenance is used for protective covering, its bones fashioned into tools. These elements, the skins, skeletal remains, teeth, talons and feathers of various animals and birds, are respected One of the finest things in the world is feathers. Sometimes they is so pretty you can’t believe they just grew that way out of a bird... But you got to be careful with feathers. Each one got its own special ways and its own kind of power. Each one belongs to that bird it came from and you can’t forget that.3 – As told to Warren L. d’Azevedo

for their energetic properties too. More like saints’ relics than talismans, feathers are portals to another realm, guardians of the bearer of origin’s potency. To be in possession of an eagle feather is to join with the essence of that noble bird. In the context of modern, urban society, laws are in effect to regulate our interaction with the land, its resources, and wildlife. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was the first international effort in response to what had become the real potential for the

extinction of these species due largely to market hunting and other forms of opportunistic harvesting. Originally agreed upon by the U.S., Great Britain and Canada, and later with Mexico, Japan and Russia, it establishes prohibitions to: 8

…pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver



transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird. (16 U.S.C. 703)4 There are a few exemptions in deference to tribal customs and ceremonies. Otherwise,

Participatory wall installation of feather prints on rice paper. photo by Valerie Constantino

clearly defined hunting restrictions apply: only specified game birds may be killed and only their parts col“I hope you love birds, too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. 5 - Emily Dickinson”

lected. Even hikers must refrain from gathering the biological castoffs of protected migratory birds. In addition to instances of actual allowable feathers throughout, the exhibition includes a wall installation of feather prints on Japanese rice paper.

The tradition of fine art printmaking implies the cloning of an original while suggesting the implausibility of precise reproduction. In creating a direct print from a found object from nature, a feather, a leaf or a fish skin for example, the suggestion to replicate is superseded

Da Vinci’s Wings (with turkey feather assemblage), Valerie Constantino photo by Barb Molloy

by the more ghostly than literal results. Produced with community participants, their collective presentation reinforces our collaboration with the natural world while distinguishing the unique properties of each wondrous agent of flight. Beyond our human quest for information, we seem instinctually moved to collect nature’s remnants, perhaps in consideration of an ancient, corporeal tie to that which we gather. With regard to the recovered parts of once live birds, we wonder: of what phase of our evolutionary course might these avian fragments tell? Exploratory research included visits to natural history museums and wildlife refuges to study their anatomical cast-offs: rare feathers, entire wings and skeletons, individual bones, talons and skulls with distinctive beaks 9

and various eggs and nests. These inspections inspired an arrangement of artifact and box assemblages. Each small-scale work is composed of recovered or reproduced biological finds, and other self-made elements including photographs, audio tracks, drawings, paintings or other found fragments. Each composition is a world, a personal, miniaturized consideration of migration, conservation or navigation, an anatomical study, an ode to a distinct species. The shift in experiential scale from the overall exhibition space to the intimacy of each compartment refocuses our perceptions from the overall to the specific, allowing for a private Navigation Box, Ann Savageau

reflection upon the phenomena of migratory birds..

As disparate as humankind may be, our myriad customs and characteristics provide a foundational warp and weft to our separate and shifting differences.The variously allied people of the Pacific Flyway suggest a kind of prĂŠcis for this cultural and individual diversity. They are represented here in a series of video portraits, highlighting those aspects of bird migration that link and distinguish them. This writing When we try to pick out anything

assumes a kind of linearity, yet the video presentation itself offers a more random

by itself, we find it hitched to

viewing, as the cycles of migration suggest.

everything else in the Universe. 6 – John Muir

Long before the arrival of European settlers, Native peoples lived in accord with the cycles of nature, including the recurring passages of migratory birds. All aspects

of their lives, periodic hunts, ceremonial practices and nomadic habitable routes were woven together according to season. Though their populations have been decimated, many tribal descendants live today in and around the ancient territories, honoring ancestral ways in observance of earthly cycles. Obviously, the social map along with the topography has been radically altered since the colonizer’s westward exodus across the North American continent. Hunters of those early days took advantage of seasonal swells in bird populations, while farmers exploited growing seasons. As conservationists continue to press for the protection of the endangered and threatened, advancements in scientific research on trans global migration and altering food and water supplies confirm the necessity for cooperation despite conflicting requisites. Developing partnerships between Far left: John Sokolowski, Waterfowler video still by Glenda Drew Right: Candace Sigmund, Education Coordinator Grassland Environmental Education Center, Los Banos, CA video still by Glenda Drew 10

these groups along with policymakers encourage more efficient and agreeable approaches towards wildlife and habitat preservation. Towards this future, dedicated teachers, often operating on absurdly limited budgets, are pivotal in relation to the plight of migratory birds and the overall wellbeing of open space. In tune with our ties to land, sky and water, environmental educators call attention to the great birds of flight, the first chirps from the nest and the inter-dependencies between all forms of life. They lead our children out of doors, fostering delight in the marvels of this substantive world. Citizen scientists, bird enthusiasts, poets and artists too, those of us who are unaffiliated professionally yet feel connected to all things avian, are an essential part of this growing cooperative network. By contributing images and stories, sightings and photographs, and participating in community activities such as festivals, bird counts and bandings, attention to the future of migratory birds is brought persistently into focus. Early in the twentieth century wildlife photographers William T. Finley and Herman T. Bohlman traveled throughout the wetlands of northern California. Their images of nature’s abundance and beauty heralded the popularity of wildlife photography. Photographs of birds in their natural environs published by National Geographic and Audubon, among other similarly inclined

Penelope in hand-made wings for stroboscope, Glenda Drew and Ann Savageau

circulations, became an effecting force in the conservation movement, generating concern for migratory birds, and moderating the influence of market and recreational hunters. Ongoing conflicts across the globe, pitting threats of extinction against the desire for market driven ‘commodities’ such as ivory, exotic hides and shark fins, in addition to rare feathers and caged birds, underscore the challenge to decommodify animals and their parts in the face of increasing economic disparity worldwide. Concurrently, nearly all ecologically minded organizations maintain interactive image-rich websites with this aim in mind: If the

I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! 7

citizenry cannot get to the countryside, bring the countryside to the citizenry.

– William Butler Yeats

With similar intent, still and animated imagery throughout the exhibition offers a conduit between space, time and human and avian individuals. Inspired by a shared desire, the exhibition’s stroboscope contains serialized photographs of individuals in handmade wings acting out their dreams of flight. As visitors trigger a motion sensor, an internal disc rotates and the strobe light flashes. The resulting animation of the sequential images conveys the illusion of motion.

Goboscope, Glenda Drew 11

The goboscope, a second rotational device, also activated by visitors, projects a progression of shadowy, halftone birds in flight into the upper regions of the surrounding architectural space. Like a prayer wheel or a drop spindle, the cyclical form of each specialized system in tandem with its repeating imagery, echoes the seasonal migratory continuum, and highlights once more the flyway as unifying global tapestry.

Flooded rice fields near Olivehurst. photo by Valerie Constantino

As it turns out, the flyway concept is a somewhat limited description of how birds actually traverse the globe. Based upon advanced computerized tracking methods, we now know that many species do not travel with such precision. Certain species and individual birds may travel a north-tosouth pathway in one direction and then veer towards an east-to-west or diagonal pathway on their return flight. More than we imagined, bird migration is a thoroughly integrated, shifting global network. For migratory species, the earth is one habitat. Combined with this contracted ecosystem, we hear with great frequency of no-return carbon levels and realMove on, bird, move on, teach me to move on. 8 – Fernando Pessoa

case extinction scenarios. If hope is the thing with feathers‌, 9 as Emily Dickenson’s iconic elegy imagines, then escalating signals such as these, emphasize the precariousness of our prospects. And yet, we live each day capable still of appreciating wild things and perhaps too, strengthening and pursuing alternative outcomes. Against uncertainty, continuing studies of

global bird migration and the effects of climate change, along with increased protections of all sanctuaries and nutrient-rich networks worldwide are more critical than ever. Many of these practices are in effect throughout the world. The international community must reinforce all of these efforts in tandem with targeted legislative actions. Weeks before moving to California, I dreamed of visiting my friend Amy in San Francisco. In my dream, she Montage / Collage Series Valerie Constantino, Ann Savageau, Glenda Drew


showed me around her apartment and then into a sunlit bedroom. There in a canopied bed, draped with red and yellow flower printed chintz, a great blue heron slept. I was tired from my journey and so I joined the majestic bird under the blankets for a nap. When I woke from my dream, I was happy. Welcome to California. This sense of well-being was due, I believe, to the intimate connection with the heron. There was nothing unfamiliar about him, no reason to consider why a bird was in a bed or a room in an apartment. The absence of boundary in my dreamscape lies at the core of empathy. Birds, the creatures of the earth, need what we need: warmth, sustenance, companionship; they feel what we feel: pain, deprivation, loss. Like poetry and art, like land, sea and sky, potentialities are fluid, relational events. Like birds and their feathers, the virtue of hope cannot be bartered or appraised. Hope is a survival instinct in common with migration, as we navigate doubt and despair and the actual, tangible obstacles to our needs and desires. Together with progressive adaptations to local and global environmental policies, our hope for the future of migratory birds, for all of us really, depends upon magnanimous, participatory flights, and perhaps too, a willingness to let slip the veil of distinction between self and other.


Weidensaul, Scott, Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, North Point Press, New York, 2000, pg. x


MacFarlane, Robert, The Wild Places, Penguin Group, New York, Ontario, London, 2007, pg. 145


D’Azevedo, Warren L., Straight with the Medicine: Narratives of Washoe Followers of the Tipi Way, Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA, 1978 pg. 27


Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918,


Dickinson, Emily from Todd, Mabel Loomis, Ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson: 1885-94, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, VT, 2011, pg. 365


Muir, John, My First Summer in the Sierra, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1988, pg. 110


Yeats, William Butler, The White Birds, from Finneran, Richard, Ed., The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2008, pg. 41


Pessoa, Fernando, The Keeper of the Flocks, from Yang, Jeffrey, Ed., Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems from New Directions, New Directions Publishing,

New York, 2011, pg. 60 9

Dickinson, Emily from Johnson, Thomas H., Ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Toronto, London, 1960, pg. 116 13

Tule-lined freshwater marsh, with red-winged blackbirds, at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. photo by author


E SS AY The Pacific Flyway and California’s Great Central Valley by Philip Garone, Ph.D. Department of History, California State University, Stanislaus Every autumn and early winter millions of aquatic birds—ducks, geese, swans, and shorebirds—descend upon the Great Central Valley of California. Dozens of species of long-distance travelers return to their ancestral wintering grounds to feed and rest in the freshwater marshes, shallow lakes, and river systems of California’s heartland. Bred, for the most part, in the northern wetlands of Alaska and western Canada, these birds have sought seasonal refuge for at least the last ten thousand centuries in the relative warmth of the Central Valley wetlands, California’s most important contribution to the Pacific Flyway, the westernmost of four North American migratory bird corridors that stretch from the Arctic to Mexico and beyond. Today’s migrating waterbirds have been arriving in a valley far different from the one known by their forebears. Following California statehood in 1850, the Central Valley experienced nearly a century of accelerating losses of wetlands, as those wetlands were drained, or “reclaimed,” usually for conversion to agriculture. This trend began to change during the middle third of the twentieth century, when efforts to protect and restore wetlands in the Central Valley slowly gained momentum, a momentum that has been carried to the present day. As recently as the late nineteenth century in California’s Great Central Valley, millions of acres of permanent and seasonal wetlands, as well as native grasslands and riparian (streamside) forests, were the defining features of the landscape. Even for Californians who are familiar with the Central Valley, it is little known that the valley once contained approximately

The extent of wetlands in the Central Valley in the 1850s and 1990s. In addition to the pronounced wetland decline throughout the valley, note the elimination of open water in the valley’s southernmost reaches. Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Habitat Conservation, Branch of Habitat Assessment.

four million acres of wetlands. Although the wetlands were a source of bounty to Native Americans, providing waterfowl foods and plant products essential to everyday life, the new settlers considered them to be “wastelands.” Wetlands were perceived as dangerous places that harbored malaria, and that were unsuitable for agriculture and the spread of “civilization” to the West. Therefore, beginning with the Swamp and Overflowed Lands Act of 1850, by which the federal government 15

deeded swamp lands in the public domain to the states in order to reclaim them, Californians drained their wetlands—over 90 percent of them, the highest percentage loss of any state. However, by the early twentieth century biologists were among the first to realize that wetlands were not wastelands. Although it would still be decades before the full ecological value of wetlands became understood, the importance of wetlands for migratory waterfowl was becoming clear. The four great North American flyways—the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific—were discovered as a result of bird banding studies conducted first by the American Bird Banding Association and, after 1920, by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey. The wetlands of the Central Valley turned out to be of particular importance to the migratory waterfowl of the Pacific Flyway. The Central Valley is host to approximately 60 percent of the wintering waterfowl of the Plat of the Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita produced in 1861. Seasonally flooded grassland adjacent to the San Joaquin River and a maze of sloughs provided excellent grazing for cattle—and habitat for waterfowl. Courtesy of the California State Archives, Sacramento, California.

entire Pacific Flyway—as many as ten million ducks, geese, and swans—in addition to millions of shorebirds and other waterbirds. Overall, the Central Valley remarkably hosts nearly one-fifth of all the wintering waterfowl in North America. These discoveries about the flyway led, in part, to the creation of the first waterfowl refuges in the Central Valley. By the early twentieth century, the majority of the valley’s wetlands had already been lost, and the new refuges were designed to provide both food and habitat for the millions of birds that continued to arrive annually in the valley. Each of the four regions that compose the Central Valley—the Sacramento Valley, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the San Joaquin Basin, and the Tulare Basin—possesses a rich history of the reclamation and subsequent protection and partial restoration of their wetlands. To tell each of those four interrelated stories, spanning more than a century and a half since statehood, would require many more words than this space permits, so this essay will focus on the San Joaquin Basin, which occupies the northern half of the San Joaquin Valley and encompasses California State University Stanislaus. The history of the wetlands of the San Joaquin Basin contains lessons not only about

the unintended consequences of the heedless manipulation of nature, but also about the power of protest by relatively small, localized groups of stakeholders to ultimately influence federal environmental policy. Within the San Joaquin Basin, the extensive floodplain wetlands in Merced County, in a region known as the Grasslands, occupy center stage in our story. The battle to protect wetlands there was fought over much of the twentieth century, but the roots of that struggle date back even further, to the second half of the nine16

teenth century and the great cattle empire of the basin’s largest landowners, Henry Miller and Charles Lux. During the 1860s, Miller and Lux purchased a former 50,000-acre Mexican land grant, the Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita. This Merced County property lay along the San Joaquin River, which, swollen with runoff from rain and snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada, overflowed its banks nearly every winter and spring and flooded the adjacent land, especially to the west. Miller and Lux took advantage of these seasonal floods to grow grass for their cattle, and the region including Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita and over 100,000 acres of adjacent land provided some of the best pasture land in the state. These seasonal wetlands, eventually known as the Grasslands, also provided a mecca for the nearly one million waterfowl and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds that flocked there. For many decades, cattle and waterfowl existed together in the Grasslands. During the 1920s, after the death of both partners, the firm of Miller and Lux, Inc. sold off its properties in the Grasslands, primarily to combination private duck hunting clubs and cattle ranches. The new owners continued to protect the land from drainage and conversion to agriculture, and to retain it as a seasonal wetland. These duck hunting clubs were to prove tremendously important in saving the Grasslands wetlands from California’s most extensive water development plan, the Central Valley Project. The Central Valley Project (CVP) was the result of decades of planning for California’s economic development. Designed to transport water from the

Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River, with Millerton Lake beyond. The Friant-Kern Canal is in the right foreground, dwarfing the trickle of the river that remains below the dam. Courtesy of the J. Martin Winton Special Collection on Water Use and Land Development, San Joaquin College of Law, Clovis, California.

relatively moist Sacramento Valley to the more arid San Joaquin Valley, the CVP was constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, beginning in the late 1930s. The project comprises a vast network of dams, reservoirs, and canals that span the Central Valley. As one of its main components, the CVP called for the construction of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River, just before the river descends from the Sierra Nevada to the valley floor east of Fresno. Completed during the early 1940s, Friant Dam not only stored the flow of the river behind it in Millerton Lake, but also diverted approximately 95 percent of that flow to agricultural lands in the San Joaquin Valley to the north and south, via the 36-mile-long Madera Canal and the 152-mile-long Friant-Kern Canal, respectively. The net effect of these canals was that only a trickle of the normal flow of the San Joaquin River was released below the dam. For all practical purposes, the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam ceased to flow. Its once-famous salmon runs, still numbering over 80,000 fish as late as the 1930s, were eliminated by the late 1940s, and the riparian wetland habitat that the river had provided was destroyed. The diversion of the flow of the San Joaquin River meant that there would be no more annual flooding in the Grasslands of Merced County, and the seasonal waterfowl habitat there would be eliminated. The dozens of duck clubs in the region now organized to fight the federal government, specifically the Bureau of Reclamation, which operated the Central Valley Project, including Friant Dam. The duck clubs 17

and their cattlemen allies formed the Grass Lands Association in 1944. For nearly a decade, the Association attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate with the Bureau for a permanent substitute source of water for the Grasslands. The need for an agreement was urgent; all water deliveries to the Grasslands from the Bureau were scheduled to cease in 1953. The Grasslands formed the largest single block of privately held wetlands remaining in the Central Valley, and its fate was of national importance because of the habitat it provided for the wintering waterfowl of the Pacific Flyway. For each of three years, beginning in 1951, Congress therefore held extensive hearings on the Grasslands, whose interests were well represented, especially by J. Martin Winton, an avid duck hunter and the leading conservationist in the San Joaquin Valley at that time. Meanwhile, the Grass Lands Association reorganized as the Grassland Water District in 1952, becoming the only water district in the state organized for the express purpose of protecting wetlands and waterfowl. Winton and his fellow Grasslands duck hunters were continuing a long conservation tradition; duck hunters were among the earliest conservationists in California and their efforts on behalf of waterfowl date back to the late nineteenth century. Finally, in 1954, after years Tule elk at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. These elk are part of a herd of approximately 40 to 50 animals that are protected on the refuge. photo by author

of intense lobbying efforts, Winton and the Grasslands interests emerged victorious. Congress passed the Grasslands Act, which guaranteed a permanent water supply to the Grasslands. Even more momentous, it reauthorized the Central Valley Project. The CVP had been a multi-purpose project, for the improvement of navigation, flood control, irrigation, and the generation of hydroelectric power. But now, for the first time, the protection of fish and wildlife was declared to be an official purpose of the Project as well. The prospects for wetlands and the wildlife they supported were improving in the Grasslands. In the mid-1960s, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, near Los Banos, was created in the Grasslands, on the site of Miller and Lux’s Rancho Sanjon de Santa Rita. As the second national wildlife refuge to be created in the San Joaquin Basin, San Luis complemented the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, which had been established in 1951, largely to protect habitat

especially important for geese and sandhill cranes. Not only did the new San Luis refuge protect waterfowl and waterbirds of all kinds, but in 1974 a herd of tule elk would be introduced there as well. A hundred years earlier, this majestic wetland-dependent species had been nearly driven to extinction from loss of habitat and overhunting, but the last surviving animals had been protected by Miller and Lux on their Buttonwillow Ranch in Kern County. As a result of that and subsequent efforts, tule elk were saved from probable extinction, and nearly two dozen thriving herds have since been established in the Central Valley and throughout California.


The combination of the Grasslands Act and the creation of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge appeared to have saved the Grasslands, but a new, and more foreboding, chapter in the Grasslands was about to begin. To the south of the Grasslands, in the arid southwest part of the San Joaquin Valley where there is little surface water, farmers needed to depend on groundwater for irrigation, and by the middle of the twentieth century, groundwater levels had dropped precipitously. The farmers in this region, many of whom held vast tracts of land and had little in common with typical family farmers, organized the Westlands Water District in 1952. Their purpose was to convince Congress to extend the Central Valley Project further south to bring water to their parched lands. The problem with bringing irrigation water to their lands, however, was that the soil was heavily laden with selenium, a naturally occurring element that is toxic in high concentrations. Unfortunately, irrigation water leaches selenium from the soil, but at this time few people knew the risks that high levels of selenium posed to wildlife, particularly in aquatic ecosystems. In 1960, the Westlands Water District prevailed upon Congress to authorize an extension of the Central Valley Project, to be called the San Luis Project, which would serve the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley. However, because the soils of the Westside suffered from severe drainage problems, the legislation also required that a drain be constructed from the Westlands north to the Sacramento-San

Snow geese in flight at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. photo by author

Joaquin Delta to remove the agricultural wastewater. A great deal of opposition to this plan emerged from environmentalists and congressmen from the Delta and San Francisco Bay Area, who objected to large quantities of agricultural wastewater, laden with pesticides and fertilizers, being dumped into the Delta and, then, into the Bay. Ultimately, because of inadequate financial resources, the Bureau of Reclamation was prevented from completing the drain to the Delta, and instead had to place its terminus at Kesterson, a new national wildlife refuge created in the Grasslands in 1970, and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agricultural wastewater from the Westlands entered the Kesterson Refuge from the south via the newly built 85-mile-long San Luis Drain, and was stored in 12 evaporation ponds, covering 1,280 acres of the refuge. During most of the 1970s, the agricultural wastewater flowing from the Westlands into Kesterson appeared to cause no ill effects to wildlife. However, beginning around 1980, the character of the water changed. Instead of coming from surface runoff in the Westlands, the drainwater now came from Westlands’ recently completed subsurface drainage system. Unlike surface runoff, wastewater that is collected in subsurface drains has passed through the soil and has leached selenium and other trace elements from it.


In 1983, events decidedly took a turn toward the macabre. Felix Smith and Harry Ohlendorf, highly respected senior biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, found the first horribly deformed waterbird embryos and newly-hatched chicks at Kesterson. The lethal selenium-induced deformities that Smith, Ohlendorf, and others exposed were monstrous. Birds were hatched without eyes, with twisted corkscrew bills, with deformed legs and wings, with their brains located outside of their skulls, and with other nightmarish features. By 1985, at least one thousand waterbirds would die from the effects of selenium poisoning. Kesterson made national news. It shook the foundations of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and it threatened what historians call “the agricultural mystique” in California, in other words the previously unchallenged belief that irrigated agriculture is always the optimal use of land. As a result of the environmental nightmare at Kesterson, Westlands’ drainage system was plugged and the San Luis Drain to Kesterson was shut down. Kesterson Reservoir itself was closed. By 1988, the Bureau of Reclamation had filled in the ponds, and Kesterson was converted to a terrestrial ecosystem, although the threat of selenium still lurked beneath. Kesterson had repercussions that rippled far beyond the ponds of the reservoir, however. In part as a response to the disaster at Kesterson, and to the declining condition of fish and wildlife resources in the Central Valley overall, Congress passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) of 1992, which once again reauthorized the Central Valley Project, this time not only making the protection of fish and wildlife a purpose of the project, but also elevating that purpose to equal importance with the project’s other purposes. The CVPIA restored historical water supplies to the wetlands of the Central Valley, and has since been responsible for the protection and restoration of tens of thousands of acres of wetlands on national wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, and in the privately-held Grasslands. Under the CVPIA, and with the assistance of numerous public and private partnerships, the Grasslands has thrived in recent Snow geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, with the Sutter Buttes rising in the distance. photo by author

years. Known since the late 1990s as the Grasslands Ecological Area, in 2005 the region received the coveted designation as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, named after an international convention on wetlands that was held in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. In retrospect, had it not been for the

efforts of the duck hunters and cattle ranchers of the Grasslands, who began organizing in the late 1930s to resist the destruction of the Grasslands by the effects of the Central Valley Project, there would have been much less of the Grasslands left to protect. Today, throughout the Central Valley, protection has been expanded from the wetlands alone to include additional types of ecosystems, especially riparian forests and floodplains. In the San Joaquin Basin, the San Joaquin 20

River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1987 within the historic floodplain of the San Joaquin River between its confluences with the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers. The refuge’s 7,000 acres comprise permanent and seasonal wetlands, riparian woodlands, grasslands, vernal pools, and privately owned irrigated pastures and agricultural lands managed under conservation easements. Along the refuge’s river channels, sloughs, and oxbows can be found mixed stands of willow, cottonwood, and box elder, composing some of the largest expanses of riparian habitat remaining in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the original objectives of the refuge was to protect the then-endangered Aleutian cackling goose, 98 percent of the world’s population of which winters on the mosaic of refuge lands. That attempt was successful, and the goose was taken off the federal Endangered Species List in 2001. The refuge is currently working toward another successful endangered species recovery, that of the riparian brush rabbit, which is endemic to the riparian woodlands of California’s Central Valley. By the 1990s, the brush rabbit was facing extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, and the last known population was found along the Stanislaus River in San Joaquin County. Through a partnership with the Endangered Species Recovery Program at California State University Stanislaus, captive-bred rabbits have been released into the refuge’s dense riparian woodlands, thus establishing a new population, which has grown to become the single largest wild population of this endangered mammal. Over the course of the past half-century, we have moved from an initial focus on protecting wetlands for the benefit of waterfowl alone, to a much broader perspective of protecting a variety of ecosystems for the benefit of a wider range of fish and wildlife species as well as threatened plant communities. In this way, with its greater attention to protecting overall biodiversity, California mirrors national and global trends concerning the ways in which humans have increasingly learned to value the natural world.

About the author Philip Garone is a Professor in the History Department of California State University Stanislaus. He has written extensively about the environmental history of the Central Valley, and is the author of The Fall and Rise of the Wetlands of California’s Great Central Valley, which was published by the University of California Press in 2011.


ART IS T S’ STAT E M E NT Instinct/Extinct explores one of the most astonishing and ancient dramas on Earth: the seasonal migration of millions of birds along the Great Pacific Flyway. Migratory species have navigated a global network of flyways for millennia.Yet today, habitat loss, pesticides and climate change pose serious threats to the environment and all of its permanent and returning wildlife. California’s chain of wetlands is vital to the survival of migratory birds, dependent as they are on this ecosystem for the whole of their life cycles. In light of the state’s current drought conditions, it is more critical than ever that we protect these irreplaceable resources. Instinct/Extinct evolved in response to this urgency and our concerns for the preservation of birds and open space. During the developmental phases we met regularly, sharing and studying maps, ornithological surveys, historical studies and conservation data. We visited the flyway’s hot spots: Gray Lodge, Humboldt Bay, Los Banos, Point Reyes, the Salton Sea, San Francisco Bay and Yolo Bypass.This research led to an artistic blending of literal and abstract interpretations. As our creative strategies crossed disciplines, relevant themes emerged including avian anatomy, biodiversity, flight and navigation. Throughout the exhibition space, descriptive statements accompany the various elements of the installation. Our primary intent is to convey our appreciation for the hundreds of species of birds that return to California each year, while highlighting the pressing need for lasting custodial practices. We hope to engage all visitors as active participants in the exhibition and in the wonders beyond, of tthe Great Pacific Flyway.

Valerie Constantino Glenda Drew Ann Savageau



Instinct/Extinct:The Great Pacific Flyway, installation view, Art Space on Main, Turlock, CA 2017 photos Nikki Boudreau 23

Instinct/Extinct:The Great Pacific Flyway, installation view, Art Space on Main, Turlock, CA 2017 photos Nikki Boudreau 24


Instinct/Extinct:The Great Pacific Flyway, installation view, Art Space on Main, Turlock, CA 2017 photos Nikki Boudreau 26


ART IS T S’ B I O S Valerie Constantino Valerie Constantino is a visual artist and writer, working in a range of traditional and contemporary hybrid art forms. Her seminal studies in textiles led to broad investigations on the subject of materiality and the malleable intersection of time and matter. These considerations prompted ongoing research on the mutable nature of ecosystems, societal systems and the physical and psychological substances of selves. Constantino has exhibited her work nationally and abroad, published speculative essays on textile, and received a number of awards in support of her interdisciplinary practice. She holds a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught and lectured at various academic institutions, most recently at California State University, Sacramento. Beyond these pursuits, Valerie’s aesthetic sensibility stems from sublime encounters crossing diverse earthly and personal terrains. Of the qualities and forms of matter are the stories she tells. Originally from New York City, Constantino currently lives and works in northern California. Her work can be seen at:

Glenda Drew Glenda Drew is a critical maker whose research is based at the intersections of visual culture and social change, with a particular emphasis on the working class. The content of her work is rooted in creating messaging with greater social implications, fostering innovation and encouraging behavior change. Her subjects include country musicians, waitresses, feminists and precarious workers. In addition, she has recently created projects that consider climate change through user interface and artistic installations. Her practice is multifaceted in form and includes graphics, photography, time-base, interaction and audience participation. She is inspired by the creative possibilities technologies generate and she works with a combination of tools considered “hi-tech” and “lo-tech.” She mostly authors, designs, builds, programs and scripts her projects herself, and she also often collaborates with others in a cross-disciplinary manner. She approaches her work with an organic sense of play, exploration and curiosity tempered by the design discipline with the goal of making meaningful work. She is currently a Professor in the UC Davis Department of Design.


Ann Savageau Ann Savageau is an environmental artist and designer who creates mixed-media sculpture and installations. Her work deals with the natural world, human culture, and their intersection. In her work Ann investigates global warming and environmental destruction, as well as consumer culture and wasteful consumption; one of her goals is to bring out the hidden beauty of waste through artistic transformation. Ann’s Stanford anthropological training, her lifelong interest in the natural world, and the many places she has lived (including Colorado, Iran, and Europe) are reflected in her art. Ann taught at the University of Michigan from 1978–2002 and she is currently Professor Emerita of Design at University of California Davis. Ann has given workshops on sustainable design nationally and internationally, and has lectured extensively on her work. Ann’s work has been featured in nearly 100 exhibitions and 70 publications, both nationally and internationally. Her largest project, Bags Across the Globe, involved collaboration with over 200 people in 63 countries. Her work can be seen at:


R E SE AR CH SO U R CE S Print Cohen, Michael, Hazard’s Toll: The Costs of Inaction at the Salton Sea, Pacific Institute, September, 2014, Cox, George W., Bird Migration and Global Change, Island Press, Washington, Covelo, London, 2010, pg. 260 Elphick, Jonathan, Ed., Atlas of Bird Migration: Tracing the Great Journeys of the World’s Birds, Firefly Books Ltd., Buffalo, Ontario, London, 2007, pg. 52 Fitzpatrick, John, Saving Our Birds, The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2014,, Gardali, Thomas; Seavy, Nathaniel E.; DiGaudio, Ryan T.; Comrack, Lyann A., A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California’s At-Risk Birds, pone.0029507 Garone, Philip, The Fall and Rise of the Wetlands of California’s Great Central Valley, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2011 Hyde, Lewis, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage Books, New York, 1983 Kolbert, Elizabeth, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014 Laws, Jack Muir, The Laws’ Guide to Drawing Birds, Heyday, Berkeley, CA, 2012 Lee, Janice, Lincoln, Frederick C., Peterson, Steven R., Zimmerman, John L., Migration of Birds, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., Circular 16, Jamestown, ND, 1998, (Version 02APR2002), Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online: migratio/index.htm McCarthy, Michael, Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo: Migratory Birds and the Impending Ecological Catastrophe, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2010 Smith, Daniel, It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine, The New York Times Magazine, 4/17/2014 Sommer, Lauren, During Drought, Pop-up Wetlands Give Birds a Break, Quest, Northern California, 1/27/14, source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=during-drought-pop-up-wetlands-give-birds-a-break


Stapput, Katrin, et al, Magnetoreception of Directional Information in Birds Requires Nondegraded Vision, Current Biology, Vol. 20, Issue 14, July, 2010 Sterling, John, and Buttner, Paul, Wildlife Known to Use California Ricelands, California Rice Commission, 2011 SunWolf, Dr., Than, Ker, Can California Farmers Save Water and the Dying Salton Sea? National Geographic Daily News, February 18, 2014 Vallianatos, Evaggelos, The Imperial Poisoning of the Salton Sea, 2/2013 Wilson, Robert M., Seeking Refuge: Birds and Landscapes of the Pacific Flyway, University of Washington Press, Seattle, pg. 34 Wuerthner, George, Crist, Eileen, Butler, Tom, Eds., Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth, Island Press, Washington, DC, 2014

Websites Audubon Society The Endangered Species Act of 1973 Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Pacific Southwest Region PRBO Conservation Science Salton Sea Campaign


AC K NOW LE D GM E N TS California State University, Stanislaus

Dr. Ellen Junn, President

Dr. James T. Strong, Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs

Dr. James A. Tuedio, Dean, College of the Ar ts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Depar tment of Ar t

Dr. Roxanne Robbin, Chair, Professor

Dean De Cocker, Professor

Jessica Gomula, Associate Professor

David Olivant, Professor

Gordon Senior, Professor

Richard Savini, Professor

Mar tin Azevedo, Assistant Professor

Daniel Edwards, Assistant Professor

Dr. Staci Scheiwiller, Assistant Professor

Meg Broderick, Administrative Suppor t Assistant II

Andrew Cain, Instructional Technician I

Jon Kithcar t, Equipment Technician II

Ar t Space on Main

Dean De Cocker, Director

Nikki Boudreau, Gallery Assistant

Special Thanks

Instinct/Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway is a traveling exhibition funded by The James Irvine Foundation

and presented by Exhibit Envoy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Learn more about Exhibit Envoy’s 20+ traveling

exhibitions at


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.