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EARTHFIRE INSTITUTE wildlife sanctuary & retreat center


Winter 2012

Letter from the director


t has been another remarkable year at Earthfire, full of beauty, growth, sadness, joy, ever deeper understandings - all the richness of life. Against all odds a small, remote non-profit with an improbable mission is succeeding. We are starting our 13th year. We are increasingly stable as an organization. People from around the world are responding. Leaders of great stature are attracted to coming here to participate in retreats. We are being invited to speak at more and more places such as TEDx, a respected venue that presents “new ideas that are shaping the world”. Our readership is growing and the responses are beautiful, appreciative, heart-warming. We have been given a white buffalo calf. We are able to enrich the animals’ homes. I wonder at how this is happening. Even though I am founder and executive director it feels as if it doesn’t have much to do with me; that something else seems to be carrying it and I am just a conduit. I have asked respected colleagues what they thought about this. We all found it hard to get to the heart of the matter and I would welcome your thoughts. One colleague

suggested we were “in the flow” though I couldn’t really explain what that means. In the flow of life? LIFE supporting life? I picture a river of life-affirming energy with many currents within it. Perhaps we have found our way into one of them and are being carried along towards something beautiful. A board member responded “it is nature that is supporting you”. Earthfire is located on a small branch of the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor, 2000 miles of connected nature that allows genes to flow. It is near wilderness with all its vigor intact, and it does feel as if it is cradling and guiding me. I realized I do use it as a constant reference point. Looking out of my tiny cabin at the aspens, sage, birds, mountains, I instinctively check the feel of whatever action I am considering: “Does this ring true? Does this support the blooming of humans, animals and life?” I am of a scientific bent but still the idea enters my head that it is a

Cover photo: Nightstar © Susan Eirich


gentle, subtle but potent combination of the voices of the land, the animals and the many human hearts who have reached out to help, that is making it work. I see Earthfire as a multispecies endeavor each giving in their own way; Earthfire holding the space to weave it all together. And then magic happens. All you have to do is visit the animals here or feel the land or hear about some of the loving gifts we have received from humans. Is it powerful enough to make a difference? I don’t know. I talked about a river of positive life-affirming energy. There seems to be one of negative energy as well. They are shooting wolves all around us and all around the country. People blame the wolves for there being less and less game for hunting. They ignore the fact that development has cut off elk from entering winter range, plowing fields to the edge of politically delineated wilderness areas, cutting off access to food during the bitter

winter months. When all the wolves are gone and there is still no game, who will they blame then? They have shot grizzly bear after bear here, even though they are on the endangered species list. The last one was a young two-year-old without her mother to guide her to wild food sources. She was raiding the honey on a farm that bordered a wilderness area. But at least Earthfire is contributing to the positive flow and that is all any of us can do. It is possible that all together we will create a powerful tide; a tipping point. Meanwhile one thing we can do is say Look! Look! Look! at the wonder that is out there for us. Treasure it. Leave space for it and don’t develop everything in sight. And it isn’t just wonder. It is sweetness. Wolves are more than magnificence and a symbol of the wild. They can be heartbreakingly sweet and intensely loving. Everything we love about our dogs has its roots in the wolf. Based on what I have experienced with the animals I think there is a lot of sweetness out there once the fear or miscommunication is removed

The sweetness of wolves

Jean playing with Nightstar the wolf

With all the bad press wolves get, particularly here in the West where people are shooting them, it is important to see the other side of wolves; loving, playful, vibrantly alive. Perhaps then we can make more balanced decisions about coexisting with these incredible creatures.

and we can connect. In fact the sweetness has been there in every single species and every single animal we have had here. Once we have had time to spend with one another. And again an unscientific feeling enters my head but one I can’t shake ... that on some level the animals are asking for, desperate for, our leadership and help. On page 3 is an uplifting, moving story of one woman’s love and refusal to let a crippled baby deer perish. He is now a permanent addition to the Earthfire family. On page 5 a summary of a year at Earthfire and on page 8 is a summary of our first Conservation Conversation that left participants inspired and energized to continue

their good work, leaving with the animals’ voices in their mind. On page 10 we a have a summary of the impact of a retreat on one of the participants. On page 11 are the beloved animals who left us this year. Two of the human-oriented highlights of the year were the California Institute of the Arts residency program and the success of the Tin Cup Challenge (our best results ever). One outcome of the residency is that there is now an institute of higher learning that will enrich its curriculum with wildlife values that hadn’t been there before. The Tin Cup Challenge resulted in an astoundingly generous amount of funds for enriching animal habitat

and helping with operational costs. The words “thank you” cannot convey the appreciation for what you have made possible. Then there are the gifts of time and care; volunteers who bring over fresh organic fruits and vegetables for the bears six days a week; people who give us discounts or let us owe them until we can pay. And then there are the loving sweet animals that make everything we do worthwhile. May you have a wonderful holiday season and a joyous, healthy New Year and so may the animals and the earth.


A tiny broken deer, broken no longer Story and photos by Amy Klingler


t was July 8, 2012 and we were headed home from vacation when my husband noticed a tiny fawn curled up on the side of the highway. It was lying there in the dried out grass with its head up. There were no other deer in sight. It was blazing hot, and he had been lying on hot asphalt. I picked him up and brought him back to the truck. He cried once but then remained quiet. I gently held him on my lap and examined him – being a nurse helped to know what I was looking at. He had hair missing on his head and his left eye was swollen. His left leg was completely broken just under his knee, and on his right knee close to his hoof he had a wound that was very swollen and bleeding. He had blue eyes. His umbilical cord was dried out but still attached. Judging by his eyes, cord, muscle mass (or lack of), and overall size he was no more than a week old. We stopped to get some milk replacer, a bottle, dressings. I tried to get him to drink from the bottle but it was not well received. We put a dressing on his leg to help stabilize it temporarily, and to keep it from bleeding all over me. He just lay on the mat I had put on my legs while we petted him and talked about our new tiny friend. As soon as we made it home my husband cut some pvc pipe to use as a brace to stabilize the fracture. We helped him up


and he stood pretty well but still acted like he didn’t want to put too much pressure on his front end. He was still uncomfortable. My mother had a goat she was milking, so I went up to her place and got a bottle. To my surprise, with just a tiny bit of encouragement he drank like he had been doing it since birth. I was so relieved. His belly was full and the fracture stabilized. Being a nurse, I knew about fractures, wounds and infections and all the other obstacles we were facing healthwise. Young animals heal remarkably fast so I figured in three weeks or so he would be ready to find a new home. Little did I know he had a much longer road ahead of him. The following day we noticed the right front leg was also fractured down close to his hoof. Eric made another splint and immediately he could walk pretty well. Still, we wanted a vet to look at him. Luckily we found one that showed

compassion for this tiny broken deer. He took x-rays of his two broken legs and said that we set them pretty well. He said to come back in a week to check the progress. He also called Bear World for us and asked them if they would be interested in taking a baby deer. They said they would as long as we got his legs all fixed up. I was so glad. The deer discovered our neighbor’s alfalfa field and would go over and hide

there. I could not believe how easily a brown spotted deer could completely disappear in plain sight. I got into the habit of watching to see where he was going to lay down so that I could find him when the time came. In the evenings we would bring him in the house until bedtime. In the garage we made a soft bed out of blankets for him and put him in a large tub so he was confined. I had two sets of blankets to make a bed for

him and would wash and change his bedding daily. We went back to the vet in a week. He said he was doing fine and to come back in a couple weeks. Over the next week, however, the larger brace started slipping down, and I was afraid it would no longer cover the break. We took him back to the vet. When the splint came off my heart sank. It looked awful. I told the vet that if at any time he felt we were just prolonging the suffering I wanted him to let me know. To my relief, he didn’t want to give up on him. We I asked myself, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ But all i had to do was look at him to know that he wanted to live.

put a cast on the right leg and decided to leave the left leg open to the air so we could try and heal the wound, then worry about the fracture. The vet gave him a shot of long-lasting antibiotics. After getting him home I was worried about the left leg fracture. His left foot looked bad

and smelled worse with each passing day. After a week, it was clear that the wound was not going to get any better. His foot dried out rock hard, and smelled dead. Trying to keep the flies off was impossible. Despite all this, his appetite was always good. He was drinking a bottle three times a day, which was just under half a gallon of goat’s milk, and he was eating plants from around the yard. He particularly liked the raspberry bushes and dandelion leaves. He seemed to be handling all his trials very well and just thought his life was normal. I, however, knew differently, and when I noticed his dead foot was starting to really bother him, I proceeded to inspect it closer. I saw his joint was full of maggots. I started to cry. I felt so bad for him. He was supposed to be with his mother jumping and running around enjoying life, not here with two broken legs, one rotting off, in pain, fighting off infections. I asked myself, “ am I doing the right thing by keeping him alive to endure all this suffering?” But all I had to do was look at him and know that he wanted to live. He was trying so hard

to pull through all these obstacles life kept throwing at him.

and all the pain and trials he had endured so far were for nothing?

Two days later he was a 3-legged deer.

The vet decided we should put him in a brace so we could change the dressing. My husband and I would take the brace off at night and put antibiotic ointment on it so it could air out. In the mornings we would put the brace back on and rewrap his leg. Very slowly but surely his suture line healed up and so did the sore on his remaining front leg. It was an awesome feeling when he could finally run without any dressings, braces, casts or sores confining him. You could tell he loved life. Whenever I was outside I had a little deer as a companion.

When he tried to walk forward for the first time after the amputation, he reared up and fell over backwards then scrambled to his feet again. He did this a couple more times before figuring out how to maneuver himself to move forward. Within half an hour he was running along the tree line, playing with the chickens, turkeys and our dog, Little Bit. I could tell he felt better already having that leg gone. A week or so later he suddenly started acting like his right front leg was hurting him badly. This time, the vet decided to remove the cast. The deer had developed an open draining wound on the right leg. What if that leg started to rot off too? My heart totally sank and I felt so guilty. What if I ended up having to put him down in the end,

He loved to lick your hands, arms, face and neck and to nibble on your hair. We had bought him a salt block, but he still loved to just lick you even with that available. He would continued on page 12


Celebrating life a April 2

April 15

Zak arrives to train under Boychuck as assistant animal trainer.

A cactus rescued a year ago from a tourist souvenier shop blooms and blooms.

May 7

May 11

Foxie Whitefoot arrives from fur farm. She will not become a coat.

Nima, Whisper on the Wind, the little (soon to be white) buffalo arrives. Nima means eternal.

May 12 Adrianna arrives. Nima needed her goat’s milk. Adriana obliges with nearly a gallon a day.

June 1 June 1, begin planning for hospice infirmary.

“Interacting with animals in this way was a dream come true. It became richer and more meaningful each time I met a new animal because I was relaxing into my own animal nature.”

June 22-24 Jean and Susan lead the second Heart to Heart retreat.

-- Aimee Voetz, retreat participant Jean and grizzly holding hands


fe at earthfire 2012 July 9-20

July 15 Eight fabulous young hens arrive to relieve elderly hens who we moved to a reitrement area.

Seond annual residency program with California Institute of the Arts; Wildlife Art as Advocacy.

July 17 July 21 With the help of wonderful donors Earthfire raises $70,824 from the Tin Cup Challenge.


Aug. 27 Construction begins on bear gardens.

Connecting with Teens through Wildlife retreat with Amy Botur.

Aug. 4 Lost between two worlds, Wolfie the wild wolf hybrid is rescued and now has a home.

Sept. 24 Understanding wildlife through photography: a Roads Scholar retreat with Robert Winslow.

Sept. 7-9 The Practice of Qigong: The Way of the Animal Powers with Ken Cohen.

Sept. 27-30 Oct. 6-7

Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing retreat with Rose De Dan.

Conservation conversation with Harvey Locke. See article on page 8.

Oct. 9 Baby deer arrives.


Conservation conversation

Dinner in the Yurt


n October 6 and 7 we held our first Conservation Conversation, part of what I hope will be a series of wide-ranging conversations on different aspects of wildlife and conservation with the voices of the animals an integral part of the proceedings. It is a vision we have held since Earthfire was just a dream to have brilliant, visionary, thoughtful, hard-working action-oriented people from different fields, who care deeply about the earth, joining in conversation to see if we can find a more effective way to protect her and all living beings she supports. Ten conservation-oriented professionals from education, the arts, media and business as well as conservation participated for two full days of exploration from morning into the night, with meals brought in. The amount of time and intensity was necessary for people with disparate views, life experiences, attitudes and temperaments


to be able to fully express themselves, be understood, and have it come together in a new useful whole. My personal goal was to write a new story for us to live by, to create a different vision towards which we can work with hope and high energy. I wanted input from a wide range of professions and attitudes. Earthfire’s contribution and responsibility was to make sure the voices of the animals are heard in the larger conversation about the environment, both for moral reasons and because they have a lot to “say” that is essential for us to hear. It is a soft voice, easily ignored by the louder more obvious issues but it is a voice we must listen to if we are to survive. One of the difficulties with our culture and educational system is that we are taught to think in boxes, just as we carve up the land in rectangles and fences. That box perspective affects almost everything we do. But life doesn’t work in nice neat

boxes. Life works by energy long-term solutions, in my flow and interconnections. opinion. There is a group Boxes block the energy flow of high level lamas who and interconnection. One of get together to spend three the great things about the months of the year mediidea of wildlife corridors is tating to try to raise the that it allows life to flow, consciousness of humans. animals, plants, genes. They do so because they Along the lines of a new think it is important, effecstory for humans to live tive and worthwhile. The by came the idea that we importance of mindfulness develop a new paradigm - a rather than mindlessness Paradigm of Connection. was explored as well as how We currently live with the to encourage it. How do we story of disconnection. That change our culturally reinraised the question - how forced habitual use of only do you start such a social one form of our five brain movement? Another part wave patterns, and learn to of the discussion was the utilize ones which include enormous power, energy the larger picture? and money behind companies such as big oil and We discussed the developthe destruction it causes. ment of a true land ethic How do we activate an equal or greater Marie-Eve force against it? Marchand meets How do we flip atFoxie Whitefoot titudes; create a tipping point? Are we moving toward one through the work we are doing? Attitudes ranged the gamut from hope to pessimism. On the hope side was the idea of the Power of One – never – what we can and cannot to underestimate what one do; and Rupert Sheldrake’s person can accomplish. new book Science Set Free, which explores what true Another question was how science is and how to ask do we cut through the noise new questions that open of everyday life? That led new doors. to the realization that with all the practical and techIn a short article such as nological issues involved, this it is not possible to how important it is not to do justice to all the issues lose sight of the spiritual explored, nor the depth and aspect which feeds and informs everything else. Without that background/ Conservation conversation continued back-up we will not progon page 10 ress very far towards real,

Your support is vital in 2013


s the years go by and we deepen our understanding of the wisdom, importance and value of what the animals teach us, our urge to share it with our fellow humans grows ever more powerful. We came up with two major ways to accomplish this.

their enlarged vision and perspective out to the world, helping the animals voices reach more people. These are not income-producing retreats. We are seeking to find the funds to support them, especially scholarship funds for leaders who may not have the funds to attend.

1. Conversation Retreats

2. Teleseminars

We cannot reach enough people through our regular retreats. Using our highly successful Conservation Conversation as a model, we plan to focus on retreats that are profound, searching conversations between active leaders in our five areas of focus -- conservation, education and media, wildlife art, business, and wellness and spirituality. As the leaders are enriched and impacted by the animals, their own work will be changed as they carry

Your 2012 donations to date have helped us:

Progress mightily on our bear gardens

Begin construction on our infirmary/hospice barn

Completed on our buffalo enclosure

Provide traditional and alternative veterinary care for all our animals

Provide first-class nutrition

Connect with Earthfire online!

We will continue to intensively use the internet to connect worldwide, reaching out through our web site and through social media.

Because attendance at the retreats is limited, we also plan to reach out around the world through webinars and teleseminars, which will include video with myself or Jean teaching with and in the presence of the animals. We tested the waters with a co-leader, Rose De Dan, and had people joining from Australia to Spain to India. We plan to develop special teleseminars for children and make them freely available to schools.

3. The Animals We will, as always, work tirelessly to improve the homes and lives of the animals. The coming year will focus on completing the Bear Gardens and Hospice Infirmary. To accomplish all these goals we need funding, and really good staff. We continue to seek an assistant animal handler and a vision-oriented assistant director with passion, intelligence and integrity as well as skill. Suggestions and applicants welcome!

Your year-end donations will help us:

Expand the successful Conversation retreats with thought leaders in conservation, art, business, education and spirituality. These are crucial but notincome producing events Develop webinars and teleseminars for adults and children around the world

Complete hospice/ infirmary barn

Continue to research and provide first-class nutrition, veterinary and alternative care

Hire the necessary staff to follow through

Donate now at

or by sending a check in the pre-addressed envelope enclosed in this newsletter!



Conservation conversation continued from pAGE 8

honesty of the discussion. I will follow up on the Earthfire website as I gather everybody’s thoughts once they have had time to digest them and understand the impact of the weekend. However I will share two reactions with you. In a later conversation Charlotte Baron, Chair of The Wild Foundation commented, “I cannot get the wonderful and well-loved animals out of my mind . . . and I cannot forget their eyes. They were direct and warm . . . I am aware that there are presences that are awaiting attention. Their voices are

not unheard.” The mission of The Wild Foundation is to protect and interconnect at least half of the planet, land and

water, – Nature Needs Half. They are actively engaged in preserving large areas of wilderness around the world. That is a fine place

From The Wild Foundation

The escalating global ecological crisis – has demonstrated that conservation efforts to date have not been sufficient to sustain life on earth. While this has been happening, our ecological knowledge has also increased dramatically, especially concerning how much land and water we must protect to support life on earth. Many assessments over the last 20 years have determined that nature needs at least half of a given eco-region to be protected, and needs to be interconnected with other such areas, in order to maintain its full range of life-supporting, ecological and evolutionary processes, the long term survival of the sp cies that live there, and to ensure the system’s resilience in the face of environmental change.

to have the animals voices heard. Bob Baron, founder of the environmental publishing company Fulcrum, is currently working on Wilderness 50, a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014. He said he will be approaching his work differently because of the weekend, which was in his opinion “very, very powerful; life changing. It took me several steps further along my path. It reminded me why we are doing this work.”

An open letter to the animals of earthfire


rom the deepest part of my heart I want to thank you for all that you have given me. I came to Earthfire in hopes of reconnecting with nature in the way that I did as a child. What you imparted to me went beyond anything I could have imagined; you opened me up to the sacred existence that is my life. I felt graced by the divine beauty that permeates all of life. This revitalized my life’s purpose as an artist and a person. During my time at Earthfire, a profound sense of interconnectedness of all life pervaded me. In the quiet solitude of the landscape here, the illusion of separateness dissipated and I felt the underlying vibration of life force moving through all things. I recognized my part within the greater pattern of life. I didn’t just experience the land and all of its splendors; I became it. In turn, I felt a deep connection to the collective human spirit. At this point I became deeply aware that we all entered this world as creators bestowed with unique talents and gifts. It became clear to me that creating is a sacred act and with it comes responsibility.


This realization brought me back home. When I was a little girl I could feel the inner life force of all things, rocks, trees, mountains, animals, and even the air we breathe. This is what inspired me to begin drawing. I was so awestruck with life, and drawing was a way for me to pay my respects for being a part of this amazing creation. I never thought of myself as an “artist”. The activity of mark making and rendering forms came from a place of deep reverence and gratitude for being alive. Later, when I transitioned into adulthood, I was conditioned to view the creation of art as an occupation, and as a person, I became identified solely by my occupation and all the perceptions attached to it. On my journey to become a “professional artist”, I became disillusioned by my occupation. The art theory, the experts, the critics, and society’s view of what an artist should be numbed me and disconnected me from my original

source of inspiration. I felt frustrated and disenchanted. What was the point? It was my collaboration with all you at that drove home my purpose for creating art. As I observed your gracious gestures of playfulness among each other and your visceral response to the environment, I felt a deep sensation that the sacred is always present. In all its elegance, your dignity exposed the invisible presence of beauty. I came to understand that a sense of reverence towards life opens the channel for beauty. The true nature of art is to evoke the hidden presence of beauty. It was my collaboration with all of you at Earthfire that beauty is my deepest nature. I gained a very deep sense of how I am in the world and what I may still become. Creating art is not my identity. Rather, it is only one of the rituals that fortify my practice/life as I endeavor to bring light and healing into the world. Thank you my friends for all that you have given me.

­‑‑ Cathy Lucas, retreat participant



FeBrUARY 23, 2012

BoYCHUCK MAY 12, 2012





MArCH 4, 2012

JULY 22, 2012

MAY 5, 2012

OCtoBeR 14, 2012



SePtEmBeR 12, 2012


EARTHFIRE INSTITUTE wildlife sanctuary & retreat center PO Box 368 Driggs, Idaho 83422 • (208) 456-0926

The mission of Earthfire Institute is to awaken ecological advocacy through human connection to the wild animals under its care.

Bramble deer continued from page 4

always get real excited in the mornings and evenings and start running all over the yard really fast, kicking, and spinning in circles. He would throw his head all around and go running through all the chickens and turkeys sending them fleeing for their lives. Sometimes he would rear up onto his back legs and strike out with his front leg like the bucks do when they fight. Sometimes our dog would take off real fast around the house baying at whatever, and right behind her would be the little deer with his tail up on high alert chasing whatever it was that Little Bit was chasing. That always looked so funny and made me laugh. Even though we lived way out in the country I knew I couldn’t keep

him. Since he was used to people, he could never be turned loose. We needed to find him a permanent place to call home. We called Bear World but they didn’t want a 3-legged deer. Neither did several other places we tried. What if we couldn’t find a home for him after all this? I came across Earthfire Institute on the internet. After reading about the wildlife sanctuary, I had a good feeling so I had the vet call for me. To our surprise they didn’t hesitate and said they would take him.

I was sad, but I knew it was for the best. He would be safe there. I could tell they loved animals and cared deeply for them. So with mixed emotions we loaded him up one last time and took him to his new home. It was hard to leave him.When I went back several days later to see him, I could tell he had been loved, because they had petted most of his baby spots off! He only had a few faint spots by his belly left. If I had it to do all over again, there is no way I could just drive past a helpless fawn on the interstate and not stop to help it. It was a time consuming and stressful summer, but one I will never forget and always be thankful for. He will always have a place in my heart, and hope he also finds a place in all those who meet him and hear his story. Stay tuned for updates on his new life at Earthfire on our webpage, and in our next e-newsletter.

Earthfire Institute Winter 2012 Newsletter  

Hardcopy newsletter for our supporters.