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Winter 2009

Conscience, Consciousness, Knowledge Sandhill Cranes Squawk Out Approval of Platte Restoration

The Great Fish Debate

Order up: One Organic Revolution The Fight for Bristol Bay (Or, the Development of Pebble Gold Mine)

A fierce battle rages in the cool waters of the Pacific, all over one question:

Can we have our fish and eat them, too?

Sponsored By

Letter From



“It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

While you can. While it’s still here.”

I READ THESE WORDS IN THE Kenai Fjords National Park, but it wasn’t until I sat perched on a few lichen-covered rocks, shielding my eyes from the sun’s rays, that I resonated with the illustrious conservationist’s words. Along with Nate, my fiancé, and Marten, our friend who had never before climbed a mountain, I had just scaled 3500 feet of snow and ice to reach the Harding Icefield. Stretching over 300 square miles, this Alaskan ice field is of epic proportions. And now we sat, exhausted and exhilarated as the white of the snow and the blue of the heavens poured down upon our tired bodies. Here was the reason I set out on my great Alaskan adventure. Nate and I left Hanover College in mid-April with a Rivers Institute Grant to examine the idea of stewardship, or the way we humans relate to the Earth and to each other, with a slightly

pessimistic hope. I had spent a year encountering one brick wall after another while fighting for a more environmentally conscious campus at Hanover, and I was tired. I was tired of students leaving beer cans in Happy Valley; I was tired of direct opposition to an improved recycling program and more efficient energy usage; I was tired of people sitting in their rooms rather than studying outside or enjoying a sunset. I am imperfect to be sure, but I was afraid that our community was merely a microcosm for the world. It was almost beyond my imagination that humankind’s relationship with the waters and lands that support and inspire us could be a positive one. And then I climbed a mountain in southern Alaska, and I sat with Nate, Marten, and other enthusiastic hikers, now friends, whom we met along the trail. The eight of us hailed from the far

- Edward Abbey

corners of this Earth, and together we basked in the Earth’s glory. We sat in sheer amazement, for we had never before seen such a landscape. Here, all was right with the world, for before us laid a place unmarred by the destructive forces of humans but deeply touched by our respect and appreciation. I sat delighted, remembering the cascading waterfalls and playful marmots that dotted the bottom part of the trail, where the snow had melted. Then my attention turned to the lichen and alpine flowers, even the watermelon algae that surrounded me, and sat bewildered, wondering how these tiny creatures can flourish – let alone survive – in this harsh landscape. Finally, I revelled in the valley to the north, carved out by the inconceivable power of the glaciers, and the endless expanse of ice to the south, the intensity of the white burning my eyes, its purity touching my soul. This magazine’s principle purpose is to facilitate the type of respect and wonderment I felt sitting beside the Harding Icefield. To help us all, whether students, grocery store cashiers, scientists, poets, or lovers, pause in wonder as a caterpillar crawls across our canoe in all its fuzzy, yellow orange glory. And then, as it inches away, ponder where it lives, what it eats, and


what might happen should the intricate fabric of its web of life is torn by logging, pesticides, or other human activities. This magazine, then, is my summation of Abbey’s edict: to become conscious of nature and how we interact with it; to learn about its intricacies; to enjoy and wonder at the natural world, but to build upon that relationship so that the next generation may sit upon a mountain top, stunned into silent reverence and compelled to take up the torch of stewardship and conservation. Cheers, Liz

Winter 2009

Editor-in-Chief, Creative Director, Photography Editor, Author: Elizabeth Otte Contributing Researchers: Nathan Brownlee & Elizabeth Otte Contributing Photographers: Nathan Brownlee & Elizabeth Otte Advisors: Dr. Daryl R. Karns, Professor of Biology, & Ms. Kay Stokes, Assistant Professor of English Sponsored by: The Rivers Institute at Hanover College I would first like to thank the Rivers Institute for funding my research and the distribution of this magazine. I cannot express my gratitude for your generous support, both financial and otherwise. To those people Nate and I interviewed along our trip to Alaska and back: thank you for your kindness. You were always ready to share your experiences and your fervor, as well as a cup of tea. You believe in the future, you are working for it, and you have helped restore my hope. To Dr. Karns and Kay, to all my professors: you have inspired me to follow my passions, to believe in myself and the world, to slow down and enjoy myself. You have shared your knowledge and, more importantly, your wisdom and your friendship. For these things I thank you deeply. To the Hanover College Public Relations Department: thank you for your encouragement, your technical knowhow, and of course, your camera! Without your help, this project could not have been a reality. To the Hanover College Triangle staff: thank you for sharing your knowledge, your software, and your stale potato chips. To my family and friends: you have shaped my world – taught me to appreciate the serenity of walking along a mountain trail, the importance of caring for other creatures, great and small, and the value of a quiet talk with the ones you love. Thank you for making my life the wonderful journey that it is, for your support during my research and writing, and for the memories we have yet to make together. To Nate: you are my love and my best friend. Thank you for sharing your gentle spirit with me, and for making our summer the adventure that it was. I love our life together, whether we’re journeying to the grocery or to the moon. To anyone who reads this magazine: I had a most excellent time creating this magazine. I hope you enjoy it.

The sun creeps over the horizon at Badlands National Park. These grasslands used to support millions of buffallo,big horn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope, red tail hawks, tiger swallowtail and monarch butterflies - a plethora of life. Centuries of hunting and human development have reduced their numbers, but a new conservation initiative called Y2Y: Yelllowstone to Yukon is aiming to create a wildlife greenway that will restore habitat, reinvigorate animal populations, and prepare for the northern migrations dure to climate change. Visit to learn about the project and how you can lend a helping hand.

A Sign of Fall. Leaves descend upon Happy Valley, Hanover College’s wooded playground. Today, waterfalls, fossils (above), creeks and art work make the forest a treasure trove for students and visitors alike. But during the Ordovician Period, about 450 million years ago, a human visiting Happy Valley would have needed a float and a cool drink as a warm, shallow sea covered the valley (and most of the United States). There were no dinosaurs - they appeared about 250 million years later. Instead, invertebrates such as trilobites and brachiopods populated the sea. The Ohio River Valley has yielded some of the best-preserved fossils of the Ordovician, including the brain and horn coral scattered about the forest floor in Happy Valley.

Creatures of the sea fill a microscope’s field of view. These tiny animals are plankton. Though often confused for a specific type of animal, this term actually refers to a lifestyle that every marine animal experiences or depends upon for survival. ‘Plankton’ are plants and animals that float on the ocean’s currents, able to move vertically in the water column but physically unable to control their ultimate course or direction. Many creatures, such as crabs and barnacles, are plankton only during their larval stages. Others, including some jellies and all copepods, are called ‘holoplankton,’ meaning that they are planktonic their entire lives. Plankton form the base of the aquatic food chain. Phytoplankton (plankton plants) are responsible for nearly half of the Earth’s photosynthesis. Though the open ocean is often devoid of life, a single teaspoon of seawater in a nutrient rich area, like near the coast, can contain one million phytoplankton and zooplankton. Zooplankton (animal plankton) are generally larger, and many are visible to the naked eye. The giant Moa Moa fish is largest variety of plankton - megaplankton. Weighing up to two tons, this sunfish floats on the Pacific currents, eating squid, jellies (scientific term for jellyfish), and sponges. This sample was taken from Kachemak Bay, in Southcentral Alaska. It is filled with jellies, worms, copepods, barnacles, and snails.



The Great Fish Debate

With intense proponents for wild fisheries and aquaculture alike, and science backing both sides of the debate, what’s a nature-lover to do?

28 Pebble Mine: Aiming for Gold, Threatening Alaska’s Salmon Over one third of Alaska’s salmon spawn in the rivers of the Bristol Bay watershed. Unfortunately for them, there’s gold beneath the Alaskan soil, and two companies are forcing Alaskans to chose between a way of life and mountain or cash and chemicals.

16 Sandhill Success???

Human development degrades and destroys the cranes’ migratory grounds. Inefficient irrigation steals the Platte’s water. Humans lose touch with the river that was once their source of hope. But a fledgling restoration project hopes to change all that, and the cranes could not be happier. This is the story of their aims - and their obstacles.


You Say You Want An (Organic) Revolution

Everybody’s gotta eat, but the question is, how? The global population continues to grow. World harvest levels are peaking and gas prices are on the rise. Small farmers struggle while factory farming practices degrade our land and water resources. One woman in Nebraska says she has the answer in sustainable, organic farming.

A Cove

...the calm dark, longer reaches at the horizno above the unseen floor that verged and slipped, I knew to desolate fathoms. It was later I imagined the fish, stranded in wild water, what a life that might be lived perpetually moved, submitted to the crush, back and forth, of a rocking border...

62 Regulars 2

Letter from the Editor

4 The Big Picture 12 News Currents

• • • •

Forest Interface: Jays and Murrelets Dino’s Dancin’ in Denali Taking Five for the Environment Invasives Attack Crater Lake

25 Little Did You Know… About the Artic 32



Consentia for kids: Temperate Rainforest


Focus on the Arts: Lisa Williams


Media Messages

68 12 27 50

70 Now you know, so GO! 74



Final Thoughts

Conscientia { 11 }


Dino’s Dancin’



An Ecological Schmorgusborg Found atop Alaskan Range

Weighed down by raincoats, fleece jackets, binoculars, cameras, and a snack, you step onto one of Denali National Park’s mass transportation buses. You feel equipped with everything necessary to experience the park’s rugged mountains and tundra, the raging rivers, and truly wild wildlife. But if you forgot your trowel, brushes, and sifting screens, you might be caught unprepared for the most unexpected of creatures: dinosaurs. So far, scientists have discovered Therapod and Hadrosaur fossils, dinosaur skin imprints, avian (bird) fossils, plant imprints, fossilized pollen, fossilized dinosaur feces (called coprolites), and a myriad of impressions from bugs and worms. These tracks, prints, and fossils formed about 65-70 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, and they are so numerous in some areas in Denali that researchers call the sites “Cretaceous Dance Floors.”

The imprint of Hadrosaur skin (far above) and the footprint of its likely predator, a Therapod (above) are justa few of the gems found recently at Denali National Park.

If they can figure out if the dance was a fox-trop or the two-step, it just might unlock the mystery of how this ancient ecosystem worked. That the Theropods and the Hadrosaurs were found together, for instance, suggests a possible predator-prey relationship. The shorebirds provide another ecological clue as the small, circular depressions found near their fossils indicate their feeding method. Scientists have been studying the Denali sites for four years now, and the discoveries just get better: first a single left footprint of a Therapod, then an entire ecosystem, all in an 8,000 meter thick rock formation that was thought to be formed after the dinosaurs went extinct! There’s no telling what might turn up next, but one things for certain: the dig is on in Denali.

Pharmaceuticals...Consider Solution: Check with the local Solid Waste District or Recycling Center for information on properly disposing of your old prescription drugs.



Fact: Humans excrete 90% of pharmaceuticals ingested. Wastewater treatment facilities do not remove medications that are dumped down drains or toilets. Fact: For the last decade, gender-bending fish, reptiles, birds and mammals have been reported across the United States. In these animals, scientists report males with female reproductive characteristsics and females with male characteristics as well as animals of both sexes with reduced hormone levels and fertilization capabilities. Fact: An Associated Press report shows that at least 40 million Americans’ drinking water contains pain killers, antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones. Fact: These drugs were found in at least 24 major metropolitan water supplies, including New York City. Sum fact: These contaminants permeate all water ways: rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters, faucets, and shower heads. Sum fact: Exposure to pharmaceuticals can lead to antibiotic resistance, cancer, mutations and nuerobehavioral and reproductive problems in people and wildlife.

{12} Conscientia

Photographs courtesy of The Public Domain.

Forest Interface: Logging’s Unintended Results Marbled Murrelet Murrelets are endangered sea birds that are

Stellar’s Jay

These blue and blackbirds are endemic to the Pacific Coast of North corvids, or scavengers related to America, meaning that they live no crows and ravens. where else on Earth. Although Stellar’s Jays forage on the Adults feed at sea during the ground indiscriminately, eating nuts, seeds, day, diving for herring, and eggs, they are highly intelligent and can perch, and other fish. remember the location of hundreds of food sources. Each night, Stellar Jays prefer open spaces and flourish on the murrelets return to edge of forests. The edges of temperate rain old-growth trees in the forests are especially appealing because of the temperate rain forest. large amount of food available in this Perched in the trees, they rest in productive ecosystem. nests made of moss and lichen Stellar’s Jays live in flocks of ten These birds produce just one offspring or more individuals. They are well annually. For the 40 days until the chick is known at campgrounds and feeders, able to fledge (fly), it is left alone in the nest where they will beg for handouts. while the parents hunt at sea. These two birds’ native habitats are very different: the Murrelets in the dark, moist interior of the forest, the Stellar’s Jay at the more open edges. But as the temperate rainforests become increasingly fragmented, their homes overlap, and the lone Murrelet chick – the threatened species’s only hope for survival – becomes easy pickings for the scavenging Jays. Predation is part of natural selection. But highways, logging, and human development make the Murrelet chicks easier to access in the exposed edges of the forest. Humans exaccerbate this problem by leaving behind food scraps. This lures the Jays further into the forest, further into Murrelet habitat. Without our interference, these creatures could prosper simultaneously. But now that we’ve thrown our hat into the mix, conservationists are calling for some easy but significant solutions. 1. Follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles when camping and hiking. 2. Join the Audubon Soceity and other environmental groups as they fight to keep our national forests intact. By establishing ‘roadless areas’ in the forests, we can minimize the amount of new forest edge and maintain the interior of the forest, where the Murrelets live. Visit for more information.

Stellar’s Jay (far above) and Marbled Murrelet (above). Both birds are native to the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, but Jays live prefer the forest edge while Murellets live in the interior. Logging has destroyed their habitat, but now invading Jays complicate the problem for the endangered Murellets.

30% of the world’s energy consumption is used in the production of throwaway products. Each year in the U.S., we use 2.5 million plastic water bottles and make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas. Try trading those disposable products in for a more sustainable alternative. By simply reusing a glass bottle filled with tap water, you will prevent 9 pollutants from ever entering the atmosphere, save 20 million barrels of oil, and consume 300% less energy.

Conscientia {13}

News Currents


Taking Five for the Environment

In Denver, Colorado, Mayor John Hickenlooper has made the environment a goverment initiative. The city is working to decrease emmissions, lower their dependence on oil, improve heating and water efficiency, and reduce waste. Their “Take Five for the Environment” campaign is a great example of how personal action can create real change: citizens pledge to do plant trees, walk to work, and reduce their shower time, and they’re rewarded with a genuinely environmentally friendly home. Sounds great, right? Well, now the challenge is yours: Will you Take Five for the Environment?

i pledge

i pledge

to reduce my shower time by 45 seconds.

to replace 4 lightbulbs with CFLs.

i can

i can

keep as much carbon dioxide out of the atmostphere as not driving my car 6,000 miles.

together,HC students & alumni can

drive to the moon and back 155 times without any emissions (or save over $400,000 on our electric bills annuallly.)

i pledge

save 2 gallons of water every time i shower.

together,HC students & alumni can

save 24,718 gallons of water every day - that’s enough tofill an Olypmic sized swimming pool every 20 days.

i pledge

i pledge

to replace at least one car trip a week with walking or bicycling.

to replace plastic shopping bags with reusable ones.

to plant one tree in 2009. this tree will be native to my region or state.

decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 520 pounds per year

eliminate 208 bags per year.

join citizens across the world in the UN’s Billion Tree Campaign.

i can

together,HC students & alumni can

prevent 3,213 tons of CO2 from ever entering our skies, the equivalent of taking 535,557 cars off the road each year.

i can

together,HC students & alumni can

decrease the number of birds, whales, sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals that die from ingesting the plastic (over 10,000 annually).

i can

together,HC students & alumni can

help stabilize the climate by sequestering billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.

I, __________________, pledge to do my part to protect the environment and preserve it for the next generation.

Eager e? to do

tden Greenprin ore ways lists 15 m your daily to change protect habits and . the Earth

In 2007, the U.S. emitted 2,244,804 metric tons of carbon dioxide to heat, power, and transport the country with nonrenewable coal, natural gas, and oil. That’s over 20% of the world’s total emissions, even though we make up only 5% of the total population. The pollution can’t go on forever, though, because these resources are running dry: oil extraction has exceeded discovery since 1981. Today, for every six barrels of oil we use, we find just one barrel.

North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas have enough harnessable wind energy to power the entire US. If humans harnessed all of the Earth’s usable wind energy, it would generate 35 times more energy than all six billion of us currently consume. { 14 } Conscientia

The lake lies within a caldera, or volcanic basin, that formed 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted. Today, five trillion gallons of water fill the crater. Because the crater is at the top of a mountain, no rivers feed the lake. This protects Crater Lake from directpollution caused by agriculture, roads, and cars. Crater Lake is the world’s seventh deepest lake, and it is incredibly clear. Using a reflector called a Sechhi disk, it is possible to see down 120 feet on a regular day! Average snowfall has been decreasing at Crater Lake since the 1930’s. Then, over 600 inches fell annually, but today average is just 445 inches (about as tall as a three story building). As the climate warms, park officials worry that decreased snow input could threaten the lake and the surrounding park.

Washington Monument 555 feet tall Washington, DC

Tour boat, 48 feet long The Great Pyramids 481 feet tall Giza, Egypt

Effel Tower 985 feet tall Paris, France

Crater Lake 1,943 feet, Oregon

Invasives Attack Crater Lake

Stop the Invasion!

The diversity at Crater Lake is truly remarkable. But some of the 600 plus species that inhabit the park are in trouble. Five endangered species, the Lynx, Northern Spotted Owl, Bald Eagle, Bull Trout, and Tailed Frog, take sanctuary at Crater Lake. While the national park offers them protection, a few other species are being assaulted even within the The lake’s acidic nature allows for its clarity and park’s borders. An amphibian, an insect, and two plant deep blue appearance, but this also indicates pathogens are wreaking havoc on the Oregon ecosystems. nutrient deficiency. The lack of (green) Plants and animals evolve over millenia, and along the phytoplankton intensifies the lake’s color. way, they establish interactions. Birds and zebras develop Nevertheless, the lake supports an interesting a symbiotic relationship that keeps the zebra insect array of life, including moss that grows 400 feet free and provides shade for the bird. Flowers and bees below the surface and communities of bacteria become partners in pollintion and feeding. Raptors that grow at the lake floor around areas of and rodents become predator and prey, each keeping the thermal activity. The dry land of the park is other’s populations in control. Recently, though, non-native even more diverse: 74 mammals, 13 amphibians, 13 or exotic species have entered the equation. Humans reptiles, and 158 birds, and 680 plants make their introduce invasive species on purpose (for instance, when home at Crater Lake National Park. humans stocked Crater Lake with Rainbow Trout to improve its recreational value) or on unintentionally (in the Midwest people tranfer Emerald Ash Bore, an insect that kills Ash trees, when they haul firewood). Because invasive species did not evolve in the new habitat, they generally lack natural predators. Assuming food is plentiful, the invasives can take over new habitats unencumbered by predation. Such is the case with the American bullfrog, which humans brought from its home on the East Coast for its delectible legs. Many of the farm frogs escape and dominate: their large size makes adults better feeders, and the offspring’s toxic skin and large size keeps predating fish away. In taking over lakes and rivers, the bullfrogs are inhibiting the ecosystems’ ability to support life, store and recycle nutrients, and simply survive intact. The other invasions follows a similar path: Port Orford Root Rot, Mountain Pine Beetle, Whitebark Blister Rust affect Port Orford cedar and Whitebark pine, two rare or ‘keystone’ species. Ecologists use this term to identify species that have a disproportionate effect on the environment - even though the trees occur in relatively small numbers, their extinction would have a huge impact on the rest of the ecosystem. Whitebark pines are the best example. These trees act as ‘snow fences’ that packs heavy, high-altitutde winter snow, ensuring that snowmelt releases slowly and does not erode the mountainside habitats. Combine the protection offered by Whitebark pines with their incredibly nutritious seed, and it’s little wonder that over 110 species, including grouse, red squirrels, black bear, and the endangered grizzly bear, utilize the Whitebark stands more than other mountain ecosystems. But in the early 1900s blister rust was accidentally introduced via seedlings from Europe, and, more recently, warming temperatures have allowed the Mountain Pine Beetles to infest Whitebark pine habitat. Both species lead to certain death for the pines, and up to 25% of the Whitebark pine on Crater Lake’s west side have already been lost.

1. Don’t spread invasives in the first place! Clean your shoes, bike tires, and tents after trips, even if they are local, and NEVER transport fire wood. 2. Plant only native plants in your garden and landscaping. Go to ww.mipn. org to learn more about invasives in the Midwest and how you can help. 3. Encourage Congress to pass the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act. 4. Visit to learn more about the situation at Crater Lake and support Oregon’s “Stop the Invasion” campaign.

Photographs courtesy of The Public Domain.

Crater Lake at a Glance

Sandhill Success??? They woke me with a clacking and clamoring that night in Alaska. As I lay in bed, the call did not betray the perpetrator, for I had never heard such a sound. But I peeked outside, into the broad daylight that is a northern nighttime, and found cranes. Sandhills, Grus canadensis, to be precise. Four feet of elegance in burnt limestone and crimson, weary after reaching their summer breeding grounds. Their migration route is expansive, stretching thousands of miles from the American Southwest to the northern reaches of North America, and it is imperiled. The wetlands, meadows and open river beds which once supported millions of cranes have been drained, filled, and covered with concrete and steel. In some places, though, the birds outnumber the people. One of their favorite haunts lies in Central Nebraska, at a sweeping curve in the Platte River known as the ‘Big Bend.’ Their migration naturally bottlenecks in Nebraska, but because the majority of the Platte, once a braided stream oasis for migratory birds, has been channelized for drinking

{ 16 } Conscientia

water and irrigation to the point of destruction, the attraction of Big Bend is reinforced. Unlike the miles of river to the east and west, where the stream is a mere trickle and the riverbed is choked with vegetation, this 90 mile stretch is still relatively wide and open, two factors the cranes need to feel comfortable feeding and resting. Big Bend has not been impervious to human development, of course. Here, too, the river is surrounded by farm land and towns. But because the cranes naturally prefer this area, and because conditions here are better than in other stretches, Big Bend has been selected for a massive recovery program. With $187 million of government funding and a plan that aims to fully restore this section of the Platte, preserving the birds and the ecosystems they rely upon. And the cranes are grateful: as many as 500,000 cranes congregate here each spring to send up a joyful noise about the fledgling restoration of their holy ground. The Alaskan commotion, I knew, could not compare to the one I had missed in Nebraska. When we visited in mid-April, about a month

after the sandhills depart, I met Brad Mellema, director of the Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary to discuss the efforts to restore the Platte. Though he is a religious man, he is more likely to describe the sandhills’ hymn in terms of another love: football. Built like a linebacker but gentle as a lamb, Brad is a Nebraskan through and through: he loves the land, and he loves the Huskers. He says that the thousands of cranes that descend on the Platte river valley – up to 12,000 per half mile – are “louder than a packed football stadium.” The cranes are joined by terns, plovers, geese, herons – a whole plethora of winged creatures – for the springtime celebration. The calls of these birds have resonated through the prairie far longer than the football fight songs (9 million years, to be exact), and the meandering Platte has called back for the last 10,000 years, with grain and seed to reenergize their muscles for the migration and wetlands and open river bed and islands that offer protection for courtship and resting. In fact, safety is the defining factor for this Platte

Anatomy of a sandhill

Sandhills stand about four feet tall, with a whopping wingspan of up to six feet. While males and females both exhibit the trademark red forehead and white cheeks, a male can weigh up to 12 pounds while females weight 9.5.

Family relations are important to these migratory birds: pairs mate for life (up to 25 years), flying north together each summer to mate and raise their young. Pairs compile vegetation into a mound-shaped, 2 to 3 feet diameter floating nest. There, they will generally lay two eggs that are pale brown with dark brown spots. Young are called colts because of their ability to leave the nest and run just one day after birth. The colts migrate back to the American southwest and Mexico and spend the winter with their parents. Once they leave the Platte on their first trip north, though, they are on their own. Cranes are often spotted in “kettles,� or groups soaring high on warm air currents. Flying in kettle formation helps the cranes maintain muscle tone while feeding at the Platte. paradise, for only in Nebraska are the cranes protected from human and animal predators alike. If this story seems one of success, it is, to a degree. While at the Big Bend, the sandhills enjoy an increasingly intact habitat, and while a few

Having arrived at their northern mating grounds in Alaska, these Sandhill cranes feed throughout the day to recover fat stores lost over the journey from the American Southwest.

Though their body feathers appear red, the coloration is temporary. In the Spring, sandhills preen ironrich vegetation and mud into their feathers. This coloration disappears in the Fall due to molting. Cranes are well known dancers: they bow, jump, run, toss sticks and grass, and flap their wings. Dancing is a large part of courtship, but it also serves to thwart aggression and relieve tension.

cranes will fall to predators, and others will be too weak to continue the journey north, these challenges are part of the normal cycle of life. Brad told me that no creature can or should be protected entirely, but at least here the birds have a fair chance at surviving, even flourishing. After four to six weeks, though, the cranes’ instincts will compel them to move onward from this temporary haven, north

to the more romantic mating grounds of Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. But along the way – all along their migration route, in fact – they face a challenge far larger than a wolves or coyotes, and the odds are not as good as on the Platte. Hunting is legal in every state and province of their migration route except Nebraska, and because the cranes regroup at the southern and northern termini of their migration, they

provide easy targets. The death toll can be staggering, but habitat destruction is an even more deadly problem. Habitat conservation and restoration occur within National Wildlife Refuges and other preserves along the route, but outside of their borders, drained wetlands, choked rivers, and developed prairie are wrecking havoc on crane populations. Sandhills have managed to survive, even prosper in the

Here on the Platte, water can be a scarcity., especially when invasive species like this reed choke the river. For sandhill cranes, no water means no resting ground, no nutrients, and no future.

When visiting central Nebraska, it is easy to see that progress hangs in the balance. While driving from one restoration site to the next with Brad and Dr. Jerry Kenny, executive director of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, we crossed land that used to be the Platte River. Located a full mile and a half from the current stream bed, this wetlands is

At the Big Bend, two worlds meet. The Sandhill cranes’ migration naturally bottlenecks here, (right above), but this is also a major agricultural area, and channels divert much of the Platte River for thirsty corn and soybean crops (right).

Map courtesy of The Public Domain.

face of habitat destruction. Their seeming success, however, is not ensured. They have the largest population of the 15 cranes species on earth, but sandhills are perfect candidates for endangerment. First, they are migratory birds, meaning that their wetland and river habitats are often destroyed because the birds only inhabit the area transiently twice a year. Their large size makes them a desirous bag for any hunter along their migration path, and this limits population growth because larger creatures typically live longer (up to 25 years for sandhills), reach sexual maturity late in life and produce a small number of offspring. Finally, cranes are sensitive to disturbance, meaning that even when they do produce those two precious eggs, the mating pair will abandon the nest due to intrusion or disturbance caused by construction or improper wildlife viewing.

“We have to communicate that if these majestic birds are lost, well, that’s a tragedy we can’t live with.” - Brad Mellema, Director of Rowe Sanctuary

The Platte River may not be our typical vision of majesty, but for Sandhill Cranes, the wide open stream bed, sand bars and rock islands provide an unmatched sanctuary. The main channel of the Platte River ran at this site in the 1980’s. Since then drought and human over-consumption have caused the Platte’s flow to shrink. But the water seems to be returning. As of 2008, the drought has subsided, and thanks to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, large stretches of the Platte have been secured for wildlife conservation. These parcels of land are situated within three miles of the Platte, and instead of drawing water out of the Platte for inefficient irrigation systems, they provide habitat for animals and ensure the Platte’s future by maintaining its flow. This restoration site lays on the east end of the Big Bend critical habitat area. Last winter, workers began clearing 20 acres of encroaching trees, dug channels to help restore the Platte’s braided stream system, and created rocky islands for tern and plover nesting. Thanks to the habitat restoration, the birds returned to this area of the Platte for the first time in ten years. But the recovery doesn’t stop there: this year, native vegation, next year it’s more channels. In ten years, this site should be “fully recovered,” or able to support endangered and threatened species including the whooping crane, the piping plover, the interior least tern, and the pallid stergeon. And the Sandhill Cranes are pretty thankful, too. Conscientia { 21 }

channelized for irrigation. Brad tells me old-timers used to say that the river was a mile wide and an inch deep. “In all reality, though, it was three miles wide and a foot deep.” We drove onward, past a sea of cattle in a feedlot that stretches for miles, the stench permeating the air even inside the SUV’s air-conditioned sanctuary, and I pondered my own encounters with the Platte. Its despoliation is obvious: no wildlife in sight, bridges strewn with trash, the river’s once stately channel now barely a stone’s throw across. But along its restored shores, the Platte’s dignity is unmistakable. In the waning light of a spring evening, I even paused to capture a photo of the river, framed by a beautiful wild grain

that was backlit by oranges and yellows. The next day, Jerry told us that what I photographed was not a grain, but rather the common reed, Phragmites australis, and it is an accomplice to the Platte’s demise, for the invasive species chokes the river and the wildlife that depend on its open streambeds for protection. While some animals prefer the hiding places provided by dense vegetation, the cranes avoid these areas. An open environment provides no hiding place for lurking predators, and allows the cranes to safely feed and rest. Under normal conditions, the river would scour away imposing plants and trees by employing the full force of Nebraska’s sand reserves, which Brad likes to say outweigh those of Florida. But sand doesn’t remove vegetation on its own, and the Platte simply doesn’t contain enough water to maintain its natural habitats. “We’ve converted the land from something wild and untamed into something you could manage, something you can deal with.” And that, says Brad, has made all the difference. Burgeoning human population in city centers like Denver and overconsumption of irrigation water by farmers in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming leave the Platte dry. And while some of the wildlife populations, like snow geese are flourishing on the restored sections of the Platte where humans bulldoze

and disk invading vegetation, the whooping crane, piping plover, pallid sturgeon, and interior least tern are listed as Endangered Species. Even the relative safety achieved on this section of the Platte has been hard-fought. While terns and plovers have historically been documented in large numbers as far west as Wyoming, their only remaining sanctuary is the 90 mile stretch in Central Nebraska. Because it, too, has been developed and channelized, conservationists have rallied to protect this last hope for the endangered species. A ten-year negotiation between land owners, conservation organizations, and local, state, and national government has resulted in the cooperative Platte River Restoration Implementation Program (PRRIP). Jerry says the program, which is to be carried out over the next thirteen years aims to restore enough of the water and habitat the endangered species need to survive. “But the restoration will also benefit the overall ecosystem – the braided stream and prairie. There is a whole profusion of songbirds that could return, if we let them.” The return of endangered terns and plovers to recently restored areas certainly gives an indication of the project’s possibilities: last year, Jerry and his crew created islands suitable for nesting, and this year, for the first time in ten years, the birds bred and reared their young on this section of the Platte. And the $187

Sunset on the Platte is ablaze with color and filled with the calls of cranes as they leave their daytime feeding grounds (usually meadows and wetlands near the river) and come back to the streambed’s prtoection. million that just got approved in May will build a whole mess of nesting islands. Funding aside, Brad says that “the biggest aspect is to capture the hearts and minds of the communities” along the Platte and around the world. “We have to communicate that if these majestic birds are lost, well, that’s a tragedy we can’t live with.” The problem around here is that people think about grandiose things – not tall prairie grass and rivers…my daughter is in third grade, and she’s learning about the rainforest. That’s great, but 90 percent of the prairie is gone” while 80 percent of the Amazon remains intact. According to Brad, restoration of the Platte is a tough sell on a local level because people don’t see water flowing down stream as good for the future, but rather as profits lost. With irrigated corn yielding more than twice as many bushels of corn per acre, it’s easy to understand why water is a valued resource. Ironically,

many of the same farmers who want the water employ inefficient sprinkler irrigation technology even though more efficient options are available. As we drove across Nebraska, the farmland seemed awash with fountains: water is sprayed into the arid prairie air, and up to 50 percent of the water drained from the Platte is lost to evaporation. Worse, he says, is the fact that 97 percent of Nebraska is privately owned. With so little of the shoreline accessible to the public, “people are isolated from the river. They don’t come to play or recreate here. They only come into contact with the river when they cross a bridge.” But the recovery program aims to help reconnect people with the natural world by using the Platte as a living laboratory. Employing adaptive management practices (that is, starting with sound science, but adapting the strategies as needed throughout the restoration), the PRRIP can restore enough of the river to recover the Endangered

Species, even mimic historic peak and low flows to provide habitat for the sandhills with less human interference. In helping nature regain its balance in the next thirteen years, the program hopes to achieve another critical goal: to help people care for this unique landscape forever. Jerry and Brad are adamant believers that you have to experience nature to respect it, so they’re working with groups as varied as family farmers, big city mayors, and school children to get their message across. For the main water consumers along the Platte, the citizens of Denver and farmers, Jerry and his crew demonstrate that a healthy river is an economic boon thanks to hunting, tourism, even the recycling of nutrients. Though sandhills consume earthworms, snails and insect larvae, about 90 percent of their diet at the Platte is corn. They forage in farmer’s fields before planting, consuming about 1,600 tons of hybrid corn seed that would

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grow into weeds (not corn) during the following season, all the while fertilizing the nitrogen depleted soil. For the children, families, and other visitors, Brad and company show the Platte as a wonderland of birds, frogs, fish, and mud. “We take the kids out and put them in the Platte and let them dig and play, and then we send them home smelling like a river, and we love it.” It’s not just kids that are interested in the cranes, though. Thousands of birders and nature lovers from across the world gathered at the Big Bend this Spring to watch the spectacle that is hundreds of thousands of birds. Jerry was there, too, of course. “To be waiting in a blind when [the sandhill cranes] come back to the river at sunset, that’s an incredible phenomenon.” Support is growing locally, too. Just last football season, Brad attended the University of Nebraska opening game and watched as the Huskers ran triumphantly onto the field, with paper Mache sandhill and whooping cranes leading the way. A symbol of a growing love and respect, he says with a smile. “I believe that the birds need the people and the people need the birds.” I certainly hope so.

Sandhill Facts & Figures Number of sandhills at the Big Bend in 2008 Length of their stay on the Platte

Over 5 million 4 to 6 weeks

Number of Endangered Whooping Cranes in Spring 2008 Number of human visitors to the Platte in Spring 2008 Number of diversion canals for corn irriation

266 15 - 20,000 Thousands

Percentage of Platte floodplain planted in corn in 1911


Percentate planted today

> 50

Number of dams on the Platte

> 20

Percent by which the river’s peak flow has reduced since 1915


Number of Endangered Species in 1915


Number of Endangered Species in 2008


Platte River Recovery Program funding

$187 million

Objective To restore enough of the river to recover Endangered Species Number of acre-feet of water currently flowing through the Platte annualy


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1.1 million

Increase in number of acre-feet at completion of the restoration


Number of acres currently protected along the Platte River


Increase in acres protected at completion of the restoration


c i t c r he A

Little Did You Know About...


You might think that the Arctic is an expansive, cold desert - devoid of beauty and life. You might have thought that the icy landscape is inhospitable. You might have thought that you would never want to see such a place, let alone travel across its snow and ice. You might never think that way again. The Arctic is defined as the vast northern region where, during the warmest month, Temperatures never exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures hover around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn’t stop an abundance of life from calling the Great White North “Home.” Fish provide a fitting example: Though the Arctic Ocean is the world’s smallest and shallowest, more fish live along the edges of Arctic than anywhere else on Earth. The ocean is generally frozen, but the amount of summer ice has been declining since the 1960s. Conservative estimates suggest that within 20 years, the Arctic will be ice-free throughout the year, mostly thanks to human industry. Climate change is amplified in the Arctic as emissions of trace gases and airborne particles pollute the air to create an “Arctic Haze.” Scientists suspect that this haze speeds up the melting process. Worse still, the haze changes weather patterns and jeopardizes the Arctic’s future. We know so little about the land of the midnight sun, and climate change may obscure its secrets for good. In order to study this (literally) disappearing environment, the UN declared 2008-2009 to be the International Polar Year. The lessons learned during the IPY might also help us prepare for changes which will occur in warmer climes. Here is a sampling of our Northern knowledge and the magnificent flora and fauna that may pay the price for human transgressions.

Cyanea arctica, one of the largest jellies known to roam the seas, is a pinkish-red behemoth (2 meters across) that haunts the waters of the Arctic, scooping up small fish, crustaceans, and other jellies with its 60 meters long tentacles. Permafrost typifies the Arctic Tundra. The top few feet of soil support an amazingly rich vegetation. Below, permanently frozen ground extends as deep as 600 meters. The continuous block of permafrost has existed unfrozen for tens of thousands of years - perhaps since the last Ice Age. Meet the Narwhal. These cetaceans were long harvested for their single tusk (actually their left front tooth, used for ‘tusking,’ as seen the the right). European royal families garnished these treasures, thought to be unicorn horns, until the 17th century. Today narwhals swim the Arctic Ocean free from human hunting.

Little Did You Know About... Muskoxen are the sole surviving Ice-Age oxen. Weighing 500 to 800 pounds, these relatives of sheep and goats don’t bother to hide from blizzards: they merely go on digging through snow to feed their giant appetites. Along with a myriad of other insect species, the Cucujus beetle uses cerols and antifreeze proteins to survive the Arctic cold. This beetle, though, wins the gold prize for cold-hardiness, prospering in temperatures as low at -80 degrees Celsius. The chemicals block formation of ice on the insect’s hard back, or cuticle, and prevent freezing of internal fluids. Snow geese travel 3,000 miles to reach their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra, flying at an average of 40 to 50 miles per hour, for up to 1,700 miles at a time. Once they reach their summer home, they congregate in dense groups, as many as 80,000 geese in 4 miles of mud flats, where they feed on succulent vegetation and rear their young. The oldest, most beautiful neon sign in the world, the Aurora Borealis is caused by the same principles as the sign for fast food joints: Electrically charged particles from the sun stream towards earth and strike atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere. Though the burger joint relies upon neon for its glow, the Aurora shows forth its light when subatomic particles are dislodged from oxygen and nitrogen. Color variation, then, depends upon the energy level and variety of the approaching particles. Oxygen creates the common pale green while combinations of oxygen and nitrogen produce reds and violets.

Most polar bears are left-handed, using their dominant paw to attack seals, sea birds, and even beluga whales. Although polar bears appear white, their fur is actually hollow and clear. Grizzly bears, their cousins in the Low Arctic Zone, are quite different: they are highly territorial, their fur ranges from a deep tan to sandy brown, and they are primarily vegetarians. Four groups of people have called the Arctic home. From 2000 B.C. to 800 B.C., the Pre-Dorset culture of mobile hunters ruled the Arctic. Next came the Dorset’s, a skilled group of stone and ivory carvers. From 900 to 1300 A.D., the bowhead whale hunting Thule, or ‘Eskimos’ reigned supreme. The Little Ice Age, which began in the 14th century, pushed the Thule southward, and modern Inuit culture emerged.

Known to most because of their mythical mass suicides or the famous computer game, Lemmings are small rodents that have astonishing reproduction abilities. A female lemming opens her eyes at 11 days old, takes her first steps at day 15, and mates at day 21. A few months later, she gives birth to a litter of 6 to 10 young and immediately starts the process again.

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Photographs courtesy of The Public Domain.

In the High Arctic Zone, nearest to the poles, vegetation covers less than 5 percent of the ground. In the Low Arctic Zone, to the south, plants cover 90 percent of the land.

Pebble Mine: Aiming for Gold, Threatening Alaskan Salmon Bumper stickers opposing Pebble Mine, a 1000 square mile, open-pit gold mining operation proposed in southwest Alaska, can be found everywhere: on cars, bikes, even coffee thermoses. The mining companies proposing Pebble, Northern Dynasty Mineral and Anglo American, call it “one of the world’s most important mineral discoveries,” a reserve containing 42.6 billion pounds of copper, 39.6 million ounces of gold, and 2.7 billion pounds of molybdenum, a metal used to strengthen steel. These resources have a combined worth of $300 billion. An Anchorage-based group called “Pebble Partnership” is working to “responsibly develop” the mine, which will provide new jobs as well as new social and economic infra-structure for the Bristol Bay area, and tens of millions of dollars in annual payments to state and local governments, all while “protecting environmental values and traditional lifestyles.” But fishermen, environmentalists – even local jewelers – are not convinced that Bristol Bay can survive the mine’s development intact, let alone prosper from it. They argue that the Pebble Mine threatens to destroy to the “world’s greatest salmon rivers.” The site for the mine lies at the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed, a pristine area renowned as the Mecca of salmon fisheries. One third of Alaska’s salmon come here to spawn, generating a way of life for many as well an economic boost to the tune of $320 million annually, including over 12,500 jobs. Economics aside, many view the mine as a death warrant for the salmon, not to mention the moose, sea otters, freshwater seals, beluga and killer whales, caribou, and thousands of other species that call Bristol Bay home. How can a simple gold mine threaten such imminent harm? The danger has many levels.

Cyanide Sprinklers Heap

Tailing Pond Impermeable Lining

Proposed site of Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay watershed, Alaska.

Heap Leach Mining is a method of hard-rock mining used when the minerals cannot be chiseled away (as with coal), generally because they are present in such small quantities that a pick and ax would be economically useless. Instead, the miners drip a chemical, in this case, Cyanide, over a heap of crushed rock to separate it from the gold, copper, and molybdenum. Cyanide attracts the minerals and pools at the bottom of the ëtailing ponds,í or large pits made for holding waste. The left over rock is piled inside of earthen dams and the gold, copper, and molybdeum are hauled away for sale.

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Poisoning. Mining companies argue that by

neutralizing the acid with limestone, pollution within watersheds can be averted, but even if an ounce of cyanide never leaves the site, wind will still disperse copper dust. Copper interferes with salmon’s ability to find their spawning streams, so even this contamination could spell doom for Bristol Bay.

Habitat destruction on land. Gold, copper, and molybdenum are hard-rock minerals, and the mining company will dig from the tundra down to access them, leaving a 1700 foot deep pit. They will also construct earthen dams to contain the site’s waste, with a single dam measuring larger around than China’s infamous Three Gorges Dam and taller than the tallest skyscraper in Louisville, Kentucky. Aquatic habitat destruction. Northern Dynasty Mineral plans to use heap-leach mining at Pebble, which requires large ponds to hold the cyanide-laden rock and minerals. Though the ponds are lined with an impermeable layer, leaks often occur. Though current law restricts direct dumping of mining chemicals into bodies of water, new regulations, ones that would permit dumping of cyanide at Pebble, are in the works. These streams are primary spawning sites for salmon in Bristol Bay, and over one third of Alaska’s salmon are born in this watershed. Pollution. The result of heap-leach mining is two-fold: on the one hand, miners have precious metals that obtain high market value. On the other, 2.5 billion tons of toxic waste. Although the treated rock is piled in dams, it is not covered. The exposed rock reacts with air and rain to produce sulfuric acid, which pollutes the soil and streams. The cyanide itself releases heavy metals like cadmium, lead and mercury into the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory reports that heapleach mining is the largest polluter in the country. Spills. The earthen dams and tailing ponds that contain these chemicals could collapse, especially considering that they would be built on top of a fault line. Across the globe, six tailing ponds collapse each year, all without the help of seismic activity. Nonetheless, they manage to kill aquatic life and poison water supplies. . A heapleach mine in Romania offers a typical example: when the tailings pond broke down in 2000, a wave of cyanide and other toxic metals flowed down the Tisza and Danube Rivers, killing all aquatic life and poisoning water supplies for 250 miles downstream. Pebble Mine might never have a spill. But then again, it might.

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Northern Dynasty and Anglo America mining companies just can’t seem to connect the dots. They do not believe that open pit, heap leach mining with cyanide will harm the environment, that Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers will be fine, as will Upper Talarik Creek, which they hope to dam to hold cyanide tailings. Activists say that there is simply no place for cyanide at Bristol Bay. They argue that between the primary producers (such as grasses and phytoplankton), the primary consumers (including the 100,000 strong caribou herd that lives in the Bristol Bay watershed), the omnivores and carnivores (including the federally endangered brown bear and Steller sea lion), and the detritivores (ravens), there is little room for cyanide. What do you think??


Bald Eagle Wolf

Northern Shrike

Red Fox

Sea Birds


Brown Bear Freshwater Fish Caribou Hare


Moose Dall Sheep Ground Beetle

Stellar Pacific Sea Lion Walrus Sea Pacific Right Whale Otter

Human Clams Crabs

Sea Cucumbers

Squid Marine Fish



Willow Heather




Bog Blueberry Lichen

An Alaskan Food Chain. The proposed Pebble Mine overlaps with the freshwater habitat of Sockeye salmon, more often called “Reds.” Miners could easily contaminate two of the main rivers the Reds use for spawning. Worse still, they have applied for rights to drain these rivers to store tailings from the heap-leach process. Because salmon return to the same streams generation after generation, the mine’s construction could kill entire populations of Reds. If you take the salmon out of the food chain by inserting cyanide, where does that leave the rest of the Bristol Bay wildlife?

A concerted effort to protect Bristol Bay from a similar fate is gathering force in Alaska, and they’re using more than bumper stickers to promote the cause. In 2008, a Clean Water Act aimed to protect bear and salmon habitat on state land. This would have essentially outlawed Pebble and other mines across the state that are not compatible with habitat protection, hunting, fishing, and other uses of fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, mining companies spent $10 million advertising against the Clean Water Act and state officials illegally showed bias on a proposed state bill, swaying public opinion. The act failed. Much can still be done. Lobbyists, anti-mine advocates, and legislators alike are already gathering more testimony for new bills to be introduced in 2009. Also, Anglo American’s mining record was recently revealed to the public, complete with violated environmental regulations, compromised workers’ rights, worker deaths, and generally poor safety standards. The opposition will have to act quickly, though. Northern Dynasty Mineral and Anglo American plan to submit all permits by the end of 2008, meaning that production could begin by 2010. The state can reject their permit request if the mine threatens the environment, but Pebble plans to comply with all environmental regulations. A recent peer-reviewed study of compliance achievement shows that 76 percent of U.S. mining companies who say they will comply fail to do so. But because the state of Alaska has never rejected a mining permit request, anti-mine advocates urge Alaska residents to send letters supporting fish and wildlife protection and opposing open-pit mining on public lands in Bristol Bay to the state government. Non-residents can send similar letters to the Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior.




Learn about Other Pressing Issues...Want to Get Involved?? Environmental conservation on a local and global scale. A collaborative effort from the U.S.’s most influential advocacy organizations helps you take action today.

The Facts Cyanide is a chemical compound made of nitrogen and carbon. It occurs naturally in small quantities in apple seeds, apricot pits, and other plant materials. This compound bonds readily with gold, silver, and other metals, which is why the mining industry uses it. Cyanide is the killing agent used in gas chambers. It can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or eyes. A teaspoon of 2% cyanide can kill an adult human being. For every ounce of gold, miners dig up 30 tons of rock. The proposed Pebble Mine is located in the heart of Bristol Bay, where 30 percent of Alaska’s salmon spawn. Only 12% of the gold mined each year is used by financial institutions. A full 85% is used for jewelry. Fully 100% of U.S. mines similar to Pebble in design and scope pollute their local waterways. More to Learn at:,, and Voice your opinion at: Global solutions to a global problem.

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Commentary: O

I HAVE LONG ASSOCIATED summer with chasing lightning bugs. Venturing outside barefoot on a warm summer evening, the first flickers of light begin to illuminate the oak tree out front and the meadow that lies beyond it. The calling frogs and light breeze rejuvenate the body and soul, and the sweat and dirt left over from a day’s work in the garden or a hike in the forest seem to melt away. Catching a few in a mason jar with the lid punched full of holes, their twinkling chorus is magnified. Thanking them for sharing their light, I release the insects back into the night, and they go on illuminating the summer. After an evening of chasing lightning bugs – cool grass tickling feet below, tiny lights illuminating the sky above – thoughts seem to naturally turn to the relationship between light and dark, good and evil, hope and pursuit, success and disappointment. But unlike my home in Indiana, there are no lightning bugs in Alaska – there must be too much light for their taste. Even without their inspiring presence, I

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find myself searching for answers to some of life’s most important questions. While helping with research on Alaskan Dungeness and Tanner crabs, I wondered why we humans forced this crab to the brink of ecological extinction. A fellow researcher pointed out that fishing for crabs, clams, salmon, and the like is a way of life here in Alaska – no fishing, no economy, no Alaska. She said we must find a balance between caring for the animals and the environment and caring for ourselves. I told her that I do love Alaska, and I am glad there is an abundance of life to support this beautiful landscape, be it the Razor Clams my friends cooked over the campfire a few nights ago or the vegetables and pasta Nate and I cooked alongside them.

Still, I cannot help but think that the despoliation of Alaska’s fisheries has more to do with greed and disregard for the planet’s future than culture or a way of life. Subsistence fishing has been practiced here for thousands of years by the Alaska Natives and, more recently, white settlers. The crabs, clams and fish did not die off when local people took only what they needed to for sustenance. But now, even if we live thousands of miles from the Pacific, we can eat crab every night of the week, despite the availability of other local, more sustainable sources of protein. That is not to say that people in the Midwest should never eat Alaskan crab. But I don’t believe these ecosystems can survive if the human population continues to grow and we continue to consistently eat foods from failing ecosystems

Ode To Lightning Bugs

from thousands of miles away. Under the current regime, we need biologists to figure out why the crab populations won’t rebound in a pristine bay that is overflowing with life.

buy Oreos, let alone eat 20 in one sitting. (Note: we did make delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies, but even then we ate just one or But of course this reality can two at a time). And you know be changed. The answer to what? I liked it; I thoroughly this question of balance, of enjoyed eating so many coexistence, of respect and cookies – they were sweet and stewardship is one that blinks chocolaty and I couldn’t have brightly for a while, like so been happier than with my many lightning bugs, and then stomach full of their sugary stops radiating so as to rest in the cool grass. Just when I think goodness. I can clasp my hands around I would love to say that a little the solution, when I actually put later in the night my stomach my hands together in triumph, hurt, and that I learned a I realize that my hands are lesson about the importance empty, and that the answer of balance, of harvesting some has eluded me yet again. crabs but not all of them, of The same day I discussed eating some cookies for desert the idea of simply closing the after a hearty meal of carrots crab fishery and letting the and broccoli for dinner. I would population rebound in its own like to say that I caught this time, without any pressure from lightning bug, and that its overzealous, greedy scientists or light shone forth clearly in the fishers, I ate 20 Oreo cookies. night, reaffirming my belief Never in my life had I eaten so that the human race can live many cookies – I grew up in in a respectful relationship a home where we didn’t even with the Earth and each other.

But I can’t. My stomach felt fine. I even had an enjoyable sugar high. This lightning bug flew away, illuminating my sins rather than solutions, and leaving me uncertain about our society’s future. If I enjoyed those Oreos so much, how can I blame others for wanting extravagant houses perched atop mountainsides, even if they’re destroying the forest ecosystems and causing

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irreparable erosion and contamination? Perhaps the comparison is a bit of a stretch, for while I doubt that I will ever again eat 20 Oreos so ravenously, so sinfully, people will likely continue to enslave and maim the natural world to their benefit. Still, I realize now, with chocolate crumbs fresh in my mind, that our society has deeply engrained this mindset of satisfying our own desires, no matter the cost. If we want Oreos, we buy them and eat them greedily. If we want crabs, we fish for them, or we tell fishermen thousands of miles away to fish for them, and them we eat them even though other sources of protein are available locally. And if we want a fancy house to brag about, we take out a loan and have it built. But if we want a future, we must re-imagine our way of life. Thankfully, my trip across the U.S. and Canada demonstrated that the lightning bugs are, in fact, out there. Sometimes they are only visible if we strain our eyes, but other times we just need something to direct our attention, like the

forty-four feet of snow at Crater Lake National Park which forced Nate and me to seek shelter in the nearest motel. But the establishment was not your run of the mill motel: awaiting us were two wise souls operating an organic, environmentally conscious lodge, all too ready to share the wisdom that comes with years of political activism. Gathered around a fire, we talked late into the night, and while we did not solve the world’s problems that night, a sustainable future seemed all the more feasible. I have yet to catch that one lightning bug that will illuminate the means to create this new reality on a global scale. In fact, I do not believe such a bug exists. Rather, I hope that together we will illuminate the sky. That is a whole lot of lightning bugs, but I have an awfully big mason jar at hand.

Denali National Park complements its mandatory public transport system with sustainably built, alternatively powered visitor center. The sign outside bears the park’s unstated motto: “Unimpaired for future generations.”

A town arts council pairs up with the local sustainability initiative, promoting the arts, education, sustainability, community and the environment holistically. Events include art workshops, the farmers’ market, and Solstice day celebration.

A person who sells sustainably manufactured paper products builds his business warehouse from completely local products, from the straw bales to the timber, even the manure needed for sealing the walls. Jasper and Banff National Parks’ prescribed burn program, which is restoring balance to natural processes long halted by human interaction. After a little boy strays from the hiking trail, his father explains why his son must stay on the trails - so that all creatures may enjoy this place, always. The little boy smiled. The shelves of the Vancouver’s market, Granville Island, stocked with organic, local, and sustainably grown products. Jo’s Motel, outside Great Basin National Park, Oregon, where two aging activists ensure that your shampoo is as organic and responsibly produced as the muffin you ate for breakfast. Interactive displays and events at Redwood National Park that truly engage visitors and encourage them to actively protect the environment once they’ve returned home.

A waitress at Chipotle wearing a ‘naturally grown chicken” to promote her restaurant’s commitment to sustainable eating. Green Print Denver, the city’s government initiative to reduce waste on every level, succeeding.

Activists in Baker, NV rallying against gluttonous consumption of water resources.

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The Great

Fish Debate

CATIE BURSCH STRIDES DOWN THE HALL, tan and lean after a year living and volunteering in Bolivia. She moved there, with her husband and two daughters, last summer’s fishing season, and she has returned in time for summer – for research, education, and fishing. I catch Catie’s attention, and a smile spreads easily across her face, deepening the few wrinkle lines of the forty-something. Though I learned early on to hike efficiently in order to keep up with the gait of my 6’2” older brother, I have difficulty catching up with Catie’s even yet expansive stride. As I close the gap, I pass her vacant office, the lime green exercise ball that serves as her chair sitting unused beside the drawing table. { 36 } Conscientia

Credit: Steve Hilton


Credit: C. Bursch, Inset Courtesy of Public Domain

Catie is more likely to be found in the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve education laboratory, explaining how larval barnacles survive in the harsh Pacific as visitors watch the creatures through the microscope, darting about in a Petri dish. Or else she’s rushing into the research lab to show off her latest treasure, an orange rockfish, washed ashore from the depths of the sea. This time she’s headed to the bike rack, and after stashing some recent drawings in her saddlebags, Catie is off to prepare for a month devoted to her other love, the sea. In addition to her work as a biological artist and educator, she is a true Alaskan, someone with a deep respect for the natural world, a fisherman. ‘Set netting’ is Catie’s fishing mode of choice: with 11 people and three boats working in unison, Catie and her team maneuver the 100 foot long nets into U shapes against the shore. Lead weights pull the bottom of the net down while the top line floats on the surface with some help from buoys. The end result: a perfect net for fishing. Actually catching the fish requires both finesse and brute strength, as well as

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the occasional dip in the ocean when the hopefully fish-laden net snags on a rock. Dragging the net in slowly, from both ends, the team forces the fish to the middle of the net and then pulls out each wild sockeye and red salmon individually. Catie declares the process hard but valuable work. When asked about the difference between wild fisheries and aquaculture, though, her smile slackens. “Fish farming is like farming the land. It’s what you do when you’ve killed all the wild animals and there are too many people and animals competing for grazing resources to ‘ranch,’ so you are left with putting fences up and ‘farming.’” Instinct tells me to side with Catie, with the boat Captain in Seward who said that fish farming was an atrocity, with the environmental groups I’ve met traveling up the Pacific Coast that oppose the current state of aquaculture. I consider all of the horror stories I’ve been told about fish farming: that the fish, often Atlantic salmon being raised in the Pacific, are diseased and must be pumped with antibiotics. That the fish, like pigs in CAFOs and cattle in feed

If you ask an Alaskan fisherman her opinion of fish farming, be prepared for an extensive, educated answer. Folks on this side of the debate are adamant believers in fishing as a way of harvesting food and fishing a way of life. They demonstrate their love of wild fisheries in their food choices, their professions, and even their choice of bumper stickers. lots cannot swim and jump. That predators like sea lions and dolphins are attracted to this massive congregation of fish (up to one million in the area of four football fields) often drown in the nets as they attempt to hunt the fish. That because of their unnatural upbringing, the salmon’s muscles are white rather than pink, and must be dyed pink lest consumers see the truth of the ocean pen conditions. That the fish also require loads of antibiotics and other chemicals to ensure rapid growth. That salmon are carnivores, meaning they require 2 to 3 kilos of wild fish to produce just 1 kilo of salmon flesh; that this farming is depleting our oceans rather than saving it because it relies on wild caught fish for feed. That the excrement and medicine from these crowded pens trickles down to the sea floor leading to oxygen consuming decomposition and toxic algal blooms. That

Of course, fishing is not all glamour. Catie says she began fishing for the adventure that comes with long days at sea and nights spent in the Wall Tents set netter’s call home (Left). Each fishing season the wood frame is dusted off and covered with plastic to form a cozy home that can withstand 70 mile per hour winds. Now, she does it “to teach her teenagers a good work ethic and how to live communally...and because I’m too cheap to pay someone else to [fish] while I sit in the cabin.” Catie, like many Alaskans, is an ardent supporter of wild fisheries (far left).

Credit: C. Bursch

this nutrient excess creates a biological deadzone that extends throughout the cove or bay where the pens are located. That hundreds of thousands of the Atlantic salmon escape from open ocean pens each year, putting native populations at risk of disease and out competition. That even the fish that remain in the cages can be harmful if they pass sea lice or other maladies to wild populations. These tales leave me green in the gills. Had I met Catie earlier in the summer, I would have taken up her banner immediately, swearing off farmed fish in favor of the sustainable fishing of wild stocks. I would have eagerly recited my (somewhat correct, somewhat ill-founded) list of misgivings about farmed fish to friends and family, warning them to take stock of their eating habits. However, in May I toured the

Credit: C. Bursch

“Farming seafood has many problems, just like farming the land: over fertilization, waste falling from pens, diseases that can spread to wild stocks, on and on...”

Cypress Island Open Ocean Pens with Steve Hilton, manager of the site and our initially reluctant guide. I can’t say as I blame him – after camping and hiking for several days on the Oregon Coast, we certainly fit the bill for environmental types. Once thoroughly convinced that we were, like many, conservationists and open minded, that we were just trying to understand the complexities of the fish debate, Steve warmed to us. He has been in the fishing business for twelve years now, seven in his native Scotland, five here in the States. Steve is just a bit lankier than Catie, and though his short hair is graying around the temples, the spiky ‘do and a kind, passionate demeanor reveal his youth. Steven and Catie have spent a lifetime fishing in some form, his on the other side of the pond. But while they share a zeal for this lifestyle, their means of pursuing it couldn’t be more different.

Two sides of aquaculture: At the Cypress Island Open Ocean pens, I expected to find polluted waters full of excrement like this one in the Broughton Archipelago of British Colombia (left). Instead, I found myself in a nature preserve, surrounded by sea life (below). Images courtesy of Public Domain.

only growing in size, but also in affluence. “We used to all eat oats and porridge and cheese.” But now, more people have access to a wider variety of food, and many are demanding high energy, high protein diets. “The whole world wants to eat, and it would be nice to get it from the sea, but wild catch is dwindling. It’s just not going to be there forever.”

“The whole world wants to eat, and it would be nice to get it from the sea, but wild catch is dwindling. It’s just not going to be there forever.”

Steve manages a series of open ocean pens in northern Washington where ten nets house 20 to 30,000 fish each. “We’re in the business of providing a protein source” for the world. While we cruised the five miles across the bay to the pens, Steve emphasized the need for oceanbased protein for a ballooning human population that is not

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About one third of the fish currently consumed come from farms (twothirds in the US), and the United Nations predicts that that fully 50 percent will come from caged operations within the next twenty-five years. And while two thirds of all production is based in China, and 90 percent of all farmed fish are herbivorous, carnivorous Atlantic salmon cannot be ignored.

As we neared the pens, I braced myself for the acrid smell so many wild fish advocates had warned me about. But as I stepped onto the metal boardwalk, nothing offended my olfactory system. In fact, I was too busy noticing the floating blades of kelp growing on the fish pens, the gulls squawking and scanning for food from above, and the fish jumping both inside and outside the pens. Steve informs me that these pens have been in here, in Puget Sound, for 25 years, and that in the last year, the section including the pens has been named an aquatic nature reserve. “The site we have here is absolutely sustainable. We have no negative impact. Our surroundings are getting

better, and we’re supplying the market.” The site is an obvious choice: it encompasses a smattering of forested islands that provide shelter for wildlife ranging from sea lions to dolphins. (Note: the double netting at the fish farm prevents these predators from relying on the farms as a source of food). And the area is accessible to the local population, including a fisherman who drove by, waving, while I toured the pens. Steve expects questions about the fish farm’s impact on the local environment, but that fisherman’s wave seems to relieve some of my qualms about the system. “There are

so many misnomers out there [about fish farming].” He tells me that the biggest myth relates to the operation’s waste products. “Lots of people will say under a fish farm is a barren moon landscape. Well, I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of shit, but on a farm you’re always standing in an inch of shit.” With 200 to 300,000 fish, Steve says that affecting their surroundings is inevitable. “Yes, we do have an impact. Man is always going to have an impact, but the question is, to what extent? This operation is creating food. There are a lot worse ways to affect the ocean than we do.” Hilton

challenged me to consider the nutrient runoff from other types of agriculture, parking lots, highways and all types of human development. I can see his point. “It’s in our interest to keep everything around us as pristine as possible,” no matter if the rationale is “environmental, ethical, or economic. It’s just not sustainable to degrade our surroundings because it turns around and affects our fish’s ability to grow and survive.” Steve emphasized the role of fish farmers as stewards of the ocean. “We use the water, but we’re also caretakers of it. This is our livelihood; if we hurt the water, we can’t grow fish here.”

Oncorhynchus (Salmon) Rundown Salmon are andromedous, meaning that they live in freshwater and the sea. But where do they go in the ocean? There are five types of Pacific Salmon, and their distribution depends on species. Sock- eye and Chinook born in northwest Alaska, for instance, either cross the Bering Sea and feed off the coast of Russia or go South to the Aleutian Islands . Pinks, Chum, and Cohos from Washington State, on the other hand, migrate to the northeast Pacific as well as the Gulf of Alaska. Their entire migration can extend over 3,000 miles!

How old are salmon when they migrate from fresh to salt water?

Again, it depends on the species. Chum and Pinks often migrate after just a week while Cohos may spend up to a year in their protected freshwater habitat.

How large do salmon grow?

Salmon put on most of their weight while in the open ocean. The fish are generally just inches long when they depart from their freshwater streams, but by the time they return to spawn (after 2-8 years), they typically weight between five and thirty pounds. The record for Chinook, the largest of the Pacific species, is 126 pounds.

Salmon reproduction is an intricate process - how does it work?

Once salmon reach freshwater, they stop eating and rely on fat reserves to swim upstream to the sites where they were born. By this time, male salmon have developed a hooked jaw, called a ‘kype,’ which is used show their dominance. There are many other physiological changes: Pinks develop a large hump on their backs, Sockeyes have a hump and become very red, and the stomachs of all salmon dissolve internally, allowing more room for developing eggs and sperm. Males arrive first to stake out the best territory, preferably a protected area with just enough gravel and plenty of water and oxygen flow for the eggs. When the female arrives, she uses her tail to dig a hole in the streambed called a ‘redd,’ where she lays between two and ten thousand eggs, depending on her size and species. Salmon have external fertilization, and once the male releases the sperm, the couple will move upstream and repeat the process, sending gravel down to the first nest to protect the eggs. Females also stay near the nest site for a few weeks, but after the rigorous reproduction process, the salmon grow weak and eventually die. They provide food for bears and eagles as well as nutrients for the stream they called home.

Ferries run the Inside Passage, a route that meanders through the many islands of the British Colombia and Alaskan Coast. Each year, millions of juvenile Pacific Salmon pass through these waters on the way to the sea. In the process, they come in contact with pollution and disease.

Our conversation about conservation continued after he introduced me to Bill, a veteran worker at the Cypress Island site who shares Steve’s sense of responsibility. Bill reminds me of the farmers back home in rural Indiana: he loves his work, and he can talk your leg off. Equipped with blue jeans, a plaid shirt, and a maroon baseball cap, his face reveals how the elements wear on a body. Where smooth skin has been lost, his humor thrives. Bill calculates that the site produces eight million pounds of animal flesh per acre, per year. “Try doing that with cows,” he says with a grin. Steve agrees. “Compared to cattle, fish are much more efficient. The energy expended in staying alive in much less, there is less skeletal frame [because of the decreased effects of gravity in water], and there’s no temperature maintenance.”

Ecologists refer to this rate of converting food stuffs to energy for growth as AAE, or animal assimilation efficiency. While leaves, seeds and fruits can be assimilated at an efficiency of 50 to 70 percent, woody matter proves more difficult, resulting in a 15 percent efficiency rate. Because farmed salmon consume fish, fish oils, and easily digestible vegetable products, their conversion rate is exceptionally high. As with conventional agriculture, there is a growing demand for ‘organic,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘free-range’ products. Steve says that American Gold Seafood (AGS), the corporation that owns the Cypress Island pens, has begun a “natural program” for consumers interested in alternative farming practices. Though no authority currently regulates this distinction, AGS markets the fish with a description of their rearing: reduced fish density in pens, a diet with fewer land-based food substitutes, and absolutely no antibiotics. While he acknowledges that the program more closely mimics wild population densities, Steve says there is no statistical difference in the fish’s growth pattern. “Ironically,” he adds,

“Pigs and cattle need up to seven pounds of feed to produce every pound of living weight. Fish only need two. These guys are great at converting energy.”

In feedlots, farmers must feed cattle seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of living weight; for pigs, the ratio is 3:1; for poultry and fish, it’s 2:1. “Obviously,” says Steve, “the best source of protein is the lowest conversion [rate of energy] available, and these guys are great at doing it.”

“no organic body in the world would recognize ‘wild caught’ as ‘organic.’” Indeed, wild populations increasingly encounter polluted waters. According to the American Fisheries Society, about 1,000 new chemicals enter the environment every year, including pesticides and recalcitrant organics, or chemicals that remain in nature indefinitely. The ocean is the great recycler, storing carbon dioxide, diluting dangerous chemicals, and turning sewage into nutrients for sea creatures, but the type and amount of contaminants we put into our waterways is simply too large, and marine life is paying the price. The study focuses especially on PCB’s, or polychlorinated biphyenol’s, known agents of cancer that were outlawed in the 1970’s following the release of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Toxins like PCB’s accumulate primarily in fatty tissues of animals, and their effects are multiplied as the chemicals move up the food chain in a process called ‘biomaginification.’ While a bit of PCB might not hurt an anchovy, salmon eat hundreds of anchovies, and all those toxins add up. Salmon, then, are especially at risk for bioaccumulation because they are high on the food chain and their bodies contain a large proportion of fatty tissues. This combination makes the fish ideal conductors of chemicals from their prey to their predators, including us.

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Biomagnification, of course, at lower concentrations than can also affect farmed fish. carcinogens. The FDA also Because farmed salmon have fails to mention that while the 52 percent more fat per ounce contaminant levels found in than wild salmon, the effects the study are acceptable by of concentration can be, their standards for commercial well, concentrated. In fact, a fish, they exceed those of 2004 study in the prestigious the Environmental Protection journal Science revealed that Agency’s (EPA’s) rulings for the concentration of fourteen recreationally caught fish. different organic contaminants According to the EPA, the wild were higher in caught A 2004 study in farmed Atlantic Pacific salmon from Science revealed that Salmon in Europe and study organic contaminant the North America are safe to than in wild eat twice a concentration was caught fish week; the significantly higher in from the farm raised same regions. farmed Atlandtic Salmon Atlantic The study salmon are than wild caught fish concludes that toxic. the difference from the same regions. But on the in contaminant point of concentrations must related to the two groups’ contaminated fish, Steve begs to differ. He tells me that with diets, with wild fish consuming smaller fish directly and farmed farmed fish, “we can control what goes into the animals.” He fish being fed not just wild even contrasts salmon raised in fish, but also fish oils (that is, Washington with other products fats) that contain concentrated like butter, which now have toxins. more PCB’s than fish produced For the 25 million Americans by American Gold Seafood. who eat salmon, the question And herein lies an important of how much fish to eat difference. Steve would be and how often is a bit of a quandary. Based on the level of the first to admit that their contaminants in the 2004 study, business is imperfect, but the Federal Drug Administration compared with the overall farmed salmon scene, AGS (FDA) says consumers should appears to be a diamond in the feel safe eating one meal of rough. In large, bold letters on farmed salmon per month the corporation’s website, they without risking cancer. They maintain that even those not in does not, however, advise the “natural program” “dine on consumers about how much a mixture of anchovy, herring, fish they can consume without wheat, soybeans, and corn. risking other ailments linked They receive no hormones or to the chemicals in farmed steroids and are NOT genetically salmon flesh that take effect engineered.” They are not

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dyed pink (though Vitamin A supplements do help with coloration), and they are given only three antibiotics to combat disease. AGS calls their famed salmon production a “part of the global environmentally sustainable solution.” I had no means of testing organic contaminant levels of the fish at Cypress Island, but the 2004 study listed farmed salmon from Washington State as containing the lowest levels in all of Europe and North America (though contamination levels still merit FDA advisory of less than one meal per month). However, I could see that the operation Steve oversees is very different than those at my next destination, the Broughton Archipelago of British Colombia, or BC, as the locals call it. As my ferry sailed North along BC’s coast, I considered the state of fish affairs in BC. One hundred and thirtyseven open ocean operations distinguish the province as the world’s fourth largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon. (As compared to the four sites in Washington, which Steve says cannot even satisfy the local market.) As BC’s largest farmed export, Atlantic salmon rake in over $214 million, a sizeable sum compared to the U.S.’s $40 million per year salmon industry. Unfortunately, the economic boon is proving bust as farmed fish devastate the wild Pacific salmon populations that have supported the people of BC for centuries.

Credit: C. Bursch

For the First Nations that have long depended on the wild runs, it means a loss of land, food, and culture. For all British Colombians, it means an almost two-decade and counting struggle to balance economic and environmental concerns. For consumers in the US, where 95 percent of British Colombia’s salmon are sold, it often means contaminated or diseased fish. And for wild populations like Pacific pink salmon, the smallest of the five Pacific species, lovingly called “pinks,” it means a decrease from 3.615 million

Can we find a balance between our desire to eat seafood and preserve our oceans? Can commercial fishing, aquaculture, and the animals they rely on coexist? With your help, the answer just might be “Yes.”

spawning fish in 2001 to only 147,000 in 2002. The problems in British Colombia are many, but their origin seems to lie in the sheer concentration of farms in the Broughton Archipelago. This clustering of islands hosts 22 percent of the BC’s fish farms, producing up to 5 million fish annually. But the area also contains seven major rivers that annually sustain three million or more wild pinks as well as smaller amounts of the other Pacific salmon species.

Fish farms don’t just dot the landscape – in the most used part of Broughton Archipelago, you cannot drive a boat three miles without seeing a fish farm. When I interviewed Will Soltau, a local BC resident, environmentalist, and local coordinator for the Living Oceans Society (LOS) Farmed Salmon Campaign, he told me that this type of aquaculture is simply irresponsible. LOS focuses on preserving marine diversity and creating sustainable fisheries, and Will says that even though the

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Fish farms in British Colombia (right) produce millions of Atlantic salmon each year, and with them come even more sea lice. Although these parasites occur naturally on adult Pacific Salmon, just three or four lice can be lethal to juveniles (above). In killing the salmon, the lice disrupt entire food webs, including that of the grizzly bear and bald eagle (right, above).

current form of aquaculture feeds millions of people, it does not fit in with the environmental organization’s goals. He cites several recent studies regarding the problem with so many farmed fish living in the native Pacific Salmon territory. The connection? Lepeophtheirus salmonis, an ectoparasite, or a parasite that

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lives on the skin of salmon. The lice occur naturally on adults as they mature in the open ocean, feeding on their hosts’ blood, and eventually dying after the salmon have spawned. The tiny lice pose no threat to a fivepound adult fish, the normal host, and they do not naturally affect juvenile fish, which stay in freshwater streams. Recently, though, louse-induced

mortality rate has been through the roof – up to 50 percent – and Ford, author of the 2008 PLOS study, joins Krkosek, lead author of a 2007 Science study, and a whole host of others in demonstrating that the fish farms are the guilty party. Fish farmers position their pens in protected inlets and channels, and in the case of

the Broughton Archipelago in BC, that means smack-dab in the path of Pacific salmon’s 2.5 month, 80 kilometer swim to the open ocean. Juvenile pinks weigh just a few ounces, and if a fish becomes infected with just three or four lice, says Will, it has no chance. The adults that spawned these juveniles passed this same way a few months before, and in the process gave some of their sea lice to the adult Atlantics in the pens. With a surplus of flesh in a concentrated area, the lice populations explode, forcing fish farmers to use a delousing chemical called emamectin benzoate, or ‘Slice’. This chemical, which has not been approved by Canada’s food safety or health agencies, is highly effective for the first year. Where Slice was applied, lice infestation in farmed salmon decreased and, subsequently, Pacific populations experienced lower infestation and mortality. But the chemical is meant to be used as an emergency procedure, not as a regular treatment for the masses. Slice successfully reduced the degree of lice infestation for the 36 million Atlantics doused in 2003, but its efficiency decreases with time. In the time it takes for an Atlantic salmon to reach adulthood in the pens (about 200 days), lice infection returns to the levels observed prior to delousing. Will says that type of fish farming practiced in the Broughton Archipelago is “not

environmentally responsible for a number of reasons…the waste discharges…the connection between farms and lethal sea lice outbreaks…ever increasing array of delousing chemicals needed to suppress sea lice…” The list goes on.

With Will’s words ringing in my ears, I consider the consequences of losing an entire species. In the case of Pacific Salmon, the loss appears potentially imminent and

probably monumental. Putting pink salmon in danger also endangers salmon’s entire food web, from the bears, eagles, and whales which prey upon live salmon as food to the river systems that benefit from decomposed nutrients of adult fish. I have walked for hours in the Pacific Northwest without sighting a bear or eagle and been quite content, but I shudder as I imagine walking through the temperate rainforest ecosystems without the chance of such a sighting. There is certainly precedent for species’ demise: one third of seafood species worldwide have already experienced collapse, meaning that fishermen’s total catch has declined to ten percent of the yield obtained when the species was healthy. Boris Worm, lead author of a 2006 study focused on the future of our oceans projects that all of the populations will collapse by 2048. The study maintains that it is possible to turn this outcome around, but only if we significantly increase marine protection by zoning off breeding and feeding grounds. Currently, less than one percent of the ocean is safeguarded from habitat degradation and

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commercial fishing in marine protected areas (MPA’s). Of the MPA’s that do exist, success is almost guaranteed. By protecting species’ mating and feeding waters, fish populations can recover in as few as three years, and many other species that share their habitats rebound, too. The benefits of restoring biodiversity in a MPA are far reaching. Obviously, fish populations return to viable sizes, ensuring that their species goes on living. The fishermen profit, too, and quite literally, as they yield four times as much catch per unit effort outside the breeding and feeding grounds as they did in these areas when the fish were near collapse. Finally, MPA’s safeguard human communities from the ill effects of hurricanes, tsunamis, erosion, and flooding because intact coastal ecosystems absorb excess precipitation and hold shorelines in place. MPA’s can make a remarkable difference in the future of our oceans, but of course they are not going to solve all of our problems. We must also decrease the amount of nutrients entering the air and water, and we must use our buying power as well as our political will to pressure unsustainable fisheries, wild and farmed alike. Finally, we must address climate change. If temperatures rise at the predicted rate, we may not have to worry about the

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Pacific Salmon in the first place because cold water fish will flee northward. In the case of Pacific Salmon, though, MPA’s are especially difficult to establish because their spawning grounds overlap with the salmon farming industry. It seems the two cannot coexist, but a dedicated group in Canada is going for a hybrid MPA approach called the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA). Though not a marine reserve, the initiative designates 88,000 square kilometers – from north of Vancouver all the way to Alaska – as ecosystems in need of care. It calls for government officials, scientists, fishermen, and locals to work together to plan out how this coast can continue to be as unique and productive as it has been in the past. While the area would not be protected entirely, important spawning grounds would be off limits to fish farms and fishing, and the remaining area would be managed with the native human and wildlife populations in mind. Though originally a government project, funding has been cut almost entirely, and no protective measures have been enacted since the government established the PNCIMA planning in 2002.

Will points out that though PNCIMA would be a huge step, fish farms will still threaten salmon. “Salmon are anadromous, pelagic species,” he says, referring to the fact that though they spend most of their time in marine environments, their spawning areas are in freshwater rivers and streams. We’ll have to protect the freshwater habitats, too.

“Aquaculture is sustainable if you do it right, in the right place... with respect.”

“Right now, the only solutions are to move farmed salmon into closed containment systems in the marine environment or else move the salmon farms to land.” That might save the farmed-salmon industry, but is it too late for wild salmon? Will, for one, takes the glass-half-full approach. “Salmon are a very resilient species and I do not believe it is too late to reverse their decline. Think back 10,000 years to the last Ice Age when the majority of Pacific Northwest was covered in miles of ice. Since that time salmon have re-populated much of the ecosystems that were locked in ice.” Back in Washington, Steve maintains that aquaculture can be part of the solution – that fish farming can actually benefit wildlife, as with the Cypress Island Aquatic

Reserve. “[Aquaculture] is sustainable if you do it right, in the right place…with respect.” By completing a rigorous environmental impact assessment, selecting a location far enough from other farms, with adequate water current, and by monitoring water quality on a regular basis, Steve says American Gold makes fish

farming a long-term means of feeding the human population. Catie beckons me aside as she pulls a mason jar from a brown paper bag. The can is labeled with my name, and the contents illuminate the old jar with a vivid pink. She caught this fish from the wild, not from a pen, and while I want the wild



fish to be far superior, to be the only just means of feeding the human population’s seafood intake, I know farmed fish are also part of the solution. I only hope we can find a future that allows for both, where children study ocean fish in their science classes, not history, and where a great controversy spawns a great change.


The fish debate doesn’t end with the final words of this article: it’s happening every day, all around us. Here are three great ways you can actively promote sustainable fisheries and responsible, environmentally conscious aquaculture.

Look for the Eco-Label

Check your Pocket Guide Seafood Watch Pocket Guide:

The Marine Stewardship Council promotes “responsible, environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable fishing practices around the world” through a certification process.

A regional guide to ocean-friendly seafood. Become Aware Cards: A simple way to encourage restaurants and groceries to When you’re shopping, you can reward shift to sustainable seafood products. Spreading the Word Postcards. sustainable fishing practices by purchasing seafood labelled with the blue check. Tell family and friends about the peril of our oceans and how they can make a difference, too.

Download free copies at

Voice Your Opinion

Visit to learn more!

We must protect our oceans, and to do so we need strong legislation. Tell Congress that we need sustainable, environmentally responsible fisheries and aquaculture.

Visit to learn about the National Offshore Aquaculture Act and voice your opinion!

for S KID

temperate rainforests

What makes a Temperate Rainforest, anyway? - Cool temperatures - Dead trees on the ground -Dead trees in rivers and streams - LOADS of rain - up to 100 inches - BIG trees – as wide as a house and as tall as a skyscraper - Snags, or standing dead trees { 50 } Conscientia

Map courtesy of The Public Domain.

Where are the Temperate Rainforests?

These forests used to grow all over the Earth, but now they grow in just a few places along the ocean coast. The world map below shows temperate rainforests in green. About one quarter of all temperate rain forests are on the west coast of the United States.

Why are there so few Temperate Rainforests? Humans cut down the forests for lumber and to clear the land for farming and housing. We all need a place to live and food to eat, but we also need to protect and care for these rare ecosystems. Temperate rainforests take hundreds of years to grow, so when we cut down a tree, it hurts the forest creatures for hundreds of years!

We have destroyed most of the temperate rainforest, but what remains is incredible. You can visit the giant trees and unique animals along the west coast of the United States and Canada. State and national parks protect the forests so the trees, creatures, and people can all live together.



Forest Floor

The Stories of the Forest

We usually think of stories as books, but in a temperate rainforest a ‘story’ is a layer of the forest, kind of like the first, second, or third story of a building. Can you name the layers of the temperate rainforest? ____________ It is hot and humid in this story. Birds, butterflies, and plants that like the shade grow here. ____________ Only a tiny amount of sunlight reaches this story, so lots of creepy, crawly in sects make this cool, moist place their home. Bacteria living in this story help trees decompose. ____________ This story receives the most sunlight, and the many leaves that grow here form a roof for the temperate rainforest. Most animals live here because there is plenty of food.

This tree is enormous! It stands over 200 feet tall and forms part of the canopy, where creatures that can fly, jump, and climb like to eat, play, and rest.

How does the Temperate Rainforest stay so wet? Rainforests require lots of water. Temperate rain forests get their water from the ocean as part of the Water Cycle. Basically, the Earth has a limited amount of water, and it cycles through glaciers, lakes, streams, the ocean, and the sky over and over. So the water you drank today may have come from the sky just a few days ago, but it’s been around as long as the Earth has existed! Air temperature keeps the clouds near the coast, where it rains throughout the year. The other, drier side of the mountains is called the “High Desert.”

Water vapor in the air condenses into clouds.

Heat from the sun causes water to evaporate from the ocean.

The clouds release the water as precipitation. In the temperate rain forest, this means rain, fog, and mist.

Trees absorb much of the rain, but the rest collects in lakes and rivers and returns to the ocean. I took this picture at Hobbit’s Beach in southern Oregon’s Washburne State Park. As you can see, there are lots of clouds in the sky, and some fog where the mountains meet the beach.

Image courtesy of The Public Domain.

So, just how tall ARE these trees?

Temperate Rainforests are known for their giant trees - the Redwoods and Sequoias. These two trees are HUGE! They grow up to 420 feet tall. It takes a long time to grow this much, and some Redwoods are over 2,000 years old! Perhaps this will help you imagine how tall the trees really are: Height of a Redwood: 379 feet Height of a Sequoia: 311 feet Height of the Statue of Liberty: 305 feet Height of the US Capitol Building: 288 feet


Timeline of a Temperate Rainforest Forests change over time based on the soil, air temperature, and precipitation. But they also evolve. Here’s the story of temperate rain forests through time. 300 Million Years Ago

Ferns and horsetails grew up to 50 feet tall, creating the earliest temperate rain forests.

100 Million Years Ago

Early conifers (cone bearing trees with needle-like leaves) including the ancestors of redwood trees grew throughout North America.

65 Million Years Ago

20 Million Years Ago

Modern redwoods appeared on the west coast of the United States.

While the dinosaurs were going extinct, modern redwoods were beginning to prosper in temperate rain forests. Instead of ferns and horsetails, the forest is made up of woody trees like Sequoias, Cedar, Fir. Deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves each Fall) also began to grow in the forests.

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Because the trees in Temperate Rainforests are so large, they grow slowly. We cut the trees faster than they can grow. Only four percent of the original Redwood forests remains.

160 Years Ago

People began to cut down the Temperate Rainforests.

Do you want to help protect the Temperate Rainforest?

Most of the world’s Temperate Rainforests have been chopped down. The pictures above show two forests in Washington state that have been logged. Now, no animals can survive and the giant trees are just stumps. But you can help! Here are four simple ways to keep the forest and the creatures that live there growing strong. 1. Keep learning! With an adult’s permission, visit,, and There is so much to learn about the forests! 2. Tell your friends, and family about how the rainforests, and why we must protect these special places. 3. Tell the world! Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or visit to tell elected officials in your state to help protect the temperate rainforest and all of nature. 4. Finally, visit This site is a free way to help protect acres of forest: when you click the “Save Land” button, you help conservationists purchase parts of the temperate rainforest to be set aside as nature preserves!

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Banana Slug

Spring Peeper

Black Bear Rough Skinned Newt

These slimy creatures use two pairs of tentacles to sense their surroundings. They are normally yellow. If they have brown spots, they are called “ripe.�

With a dark X on their back, these amphibians can lay up to 1000 eggs each year! They live in muddy banks and trees.

These black mammals can run up to 30 miles per hour and are very good swimmers. Each paw has five long claws made for ripping and tearing prey.

Although this amphibian is only a few inches long, the poison in its skin could kill a human being if eaten!

Temperate Rain forest Memory Snowshoe Hare

Roosevelt Elk Pacific Salmon

G a S p G t a p c c

Goal: To collect the most matching pairs. Each pair will have one temperate rain forest plant or animal and a fact about the creature. Setup: Cut out the creatures and facts and shuffle them. Arrange the cards upside down in a pattern (for instance, 4 cards x 5 cards). Game Play: The youngest player goes first, and players take turns going clockwise. On each turn, a player turns up two cards, one at a time. If the cards match, the player keeps the pair and gets another turn. If the cards do not match, the player return the cards to their original position (face down) and tries to memorize where the creatures and facts are located. Play continues to the next person until the group finds all the pairs of temperate rain forest creatures and facts! Photographs courtesy of The Public Domain.

In the winter, this animal’s brown fur turns white. The camouflaged fur allows the creature to blend in with the snow so it can hide from predators. Even though these creatures weigh up to 1000 pounds, they only feed on fruits, berries, and grasses. Their favorites include blueberries, mushrooms, and cranberries.

This creature develops a deep pink color, a hooked jaw, and a large hump on its back soon before laying eggs.

Reindeer Moss

This lichen grows in the canopy and makes tree limbs look like fuzzy reindeer antlers. It falls to the forest floor and provides food for elk.

River Otter

This creature glides through water with its streamline body and powerful tail. Their favorite meal is fish, but like their ocean relatives, they also eat crabs and mussels.

Flying Squirrel

This creature is nocturnal, meaning that it sleeps during the day and is active at night. It has skin between its legs and arms, allowing it to glide through the air.

So maybe you don’t have a Temperate Rainforest in your backyard. You can still see the wonders of nature all around you, especially with the help of a nature journal.



A Nature Journal is a place to record what you see, hear, smell, and touch in nature. You can draw the creatures you see and write about their sounds or how they move. You might trace different leaves or dry flowers between the pages of your journal. You can write about what it’s like to sit quietly in a forest. The possibilities are endless, and it’s your journal, so what you put on the pages is totally up to you!

Getting Started.

My Nature Journal

You can buy a journal or notebook, or you can make your own with two pieces of cardboard for the covers, some scrap paper for the pages, and string to hold it all together. You also need something to draw and write with. Colored pencils or crayons are nice because nature is so colorful, but you could also fill your drawing in at home.

Get Outdoors.

You don’t have to be in a temperate rain forest to keep a nature journal - go to a park, walk in the forest, sit in your yard - anyplace will do because nature’s all around you! Be sure to take your journal supplies. You might also take a magnifying glass, a net to catch bugs and other critters, or simply your imagination.

Be Curious.

What do you smell? How does the skin of that frog feel - is it slimy or dry? Use words and drawings to answer your questions.

Tape and Glue.

Glue things like leaves and seeds to the pages of your journal, and tape in any pictures you take.

Enjoy nature.

Being outside helps us see how great nature really is. Keeping a journal will help you appreciate the birds, wildflowers, clouds, deer - everything that makes up our world.

Want More Ideas??

Visit for more ways to explore the natural world with your nature journal!

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You Say You Want an (Organic) Revolution A Q & A with organic farmer Liz Sarno reveals how agriculture and the foods we purchase can help restore our world. The dogs’ howls are clear, but the wind’s bite seems more ferocious on this prairie day as Liz Sarno extends a hearty welcome to her 200 acre farm in rural Nebraska. The hills roll lazily here, in the eastern part of the state, and the fields stretch clear to the horizon, as do the straight, gravel roads of the countryside. Liz’s frizzy gray hair flies about as she motions towards the wooden farmhouse, promising Earl Grey tea with a dollop of unpasteurized milk (technically illegal in Nebraska, she says with a grin) from a neighbor’s dairy farm. Liz has lived here for almost twenty years, living the daily trials of rural life: how to reap and sow without hurting the soil, how to respect the creatures she raises, how to make a living on the land. She raises turkeys, beans, goats, grains, corn, heritage Pole Devon cows. The Devons are endangered, she says. They were some of the first cows brought to the US because they were tri-purpose – their milk was sweet, their meat tender, and they were reliable beasts of burden. Their genes have been divided to align with the desires of big factory farms, and today the species is in danger of extinction. “We give our cows a lot of love,” says Liz. Grassfinished meat brings in a good price, but still the income from the small farm is not enough. That’s quite alright with Liz, though. She’s happy to supplement the income by educating farmers and consumers about sustainable and organic agriculture, which she practices on her own land. This year, Liz was named the University of Nebraska’s first Organic Agriculture Extension Agent as part of a USDA grant, and her knowledge runs deep. She sees a natural, sustainable future that is within reach, a future form of agriculture that could help save our planet and ourselves. She calls this future ‘organic farming.’

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or•gan•ic \or-’ga-nik\ adj. 1. Of, relating to, derived

from, or characteristic of living things 2. Occurring or developing gradually and naturally, without being forced or contrived 3.a. approach to agriculture which aims to create an integrated, humane, environmentally and economically sustainable production system. b. Farming which emphasises locally or farm-derived renewable resources and the management of self-regulating ecological and biological processes. c. Free from external inputs, especially chemicals. d. Simple, healthful, close to nature.

How did you get interested in organic agriculture? I grew up in Connecticut, lived in town but my uncles had farms, and my mom would take me out. I decided I wanted to be a farmer when I was four years old. All I’ve ever wanted to do was be a farmer. My first interaction with chemicals was in the Peace Corps. I was in Malaysia and watched a pregnant woman handling DDT, and I was shocked. I always knew I wouldn’t use chemicals – it was just logical, and when I came here in 1990 and a neighbor asked me about organic farming, it was natural to live this way. This place really speaks to me.

So what makes organic farming so much better for this place you love. What is it all about? Imagine organic farming as a stool supported by three legs: it must be economic viable, social responsible, and ecologically

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sound. Most importantly, people need to understand that organic farming is not farming by neglect. I’m enhancing my environment, encouraging biodiversity, irrigating with water sensors to reduce waste and runoff, planting wind breaks, using natural pest management putting in cover crops to prevent erosion. These things are organic agriculture.

principles – they have the money and the government backing. But it’s starting to gain interest. Two percent of the American population grows food, probably less than that sustainably, and fewer still organically, but we all eat. We’re still eating.

In Indiana, organics are still a bit of a fad, but it’s getting easier to purchase responsibly grown foods, even at chain groceries. Do you see a growing interest in organic farming?

Very few people can make their entire income from the farm. Women work full time off the farm, usually for health insurance. But with land here in Nebraska up to $3000 an acre when it’s probably worth $500, you just can’t make it with a small operation, and our rural communities are paying the price. They’re disappearing. It’s not just that you don’t know your neighbors anymore. It’s that you don’t know the neighbors who are spraying your crops.

Food is becoming a global issue. With rioting across the world because of rising food prices [and a growing concern for the environment], people paying attention to alternatives. But do we have enough people purchasing organics and farming organically? No, certainly not. The big farms don’t need to practice organic

But most of our food still comes from factory farms. Why is that?

The field to the east is a good example. It used be terraced

This friendly fellow came to say hello while Liz gave a tour of her 200 acre organic farm in Nebraska. The Cornhusker state ranks 10th in the country for largest acreage of organic crops and 7th for organic grain production.

Seven Ways You Can Change the World…by Eating 1. Shop at a farmer’s market. 2. Buy chicken, beef, pork or eggs direct from a farmer. 3. Grow a garden. 4. Ask your grocer and local restaurant to carry locally grown food. 5. Eat more “slow” food. 6. Join a Community Supported Agriculture Farm (CSA). 7. Choose foods grown in ways that are good for the environment, people, communities, and your health.

[which helps control erosion] – just beautiful. Good harvests, too, but it’s tough being a small farmer. A rich dentist came in from out East, wanted to have a ranch. He bought the place and rented it to a big farmer who bulldozed the terraces and

planted hybridized corn. It’s a shame.

Considering the truths about factory farming, the disappearance of small farms, animal cruelty, heavy use of chemicals, and monoculture

crops, organic farming seems to be the perfect solution. Is it such an easy distinction? It’s hard because when you point the finger, three are pointing back at you. Just last week I went to a convention about organic agriculture in

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lo•ca•vore \’lo-ki-‚vor\ n 1. a person

who limits her food supply to what is grown and produced within a restricted radius of her home as a means of helping the environment, the local economy, and herself. The term, apparently, has unknown origins - some say it was coined by four San Francisco women in 2005 when they challenged local residents to only eat food produced in a 100 mile radius. Others attribute it to a Vancouver couple who popularized the movement with a year long effort to eat locally (within 160 km of their home). Whatever the circumstances, the Locavore movement has caught on. In 2007, the New Oxford American Dictionary even deemed ‘locavore’ the Word of the Year, pushing the movement further into the main stream. Today, Locavores across the world are encouraging consumers to buy foods from farmers markets, join Community Supported Agriculture cooperatives (CSA’s), and grow and preserve their own food. The Locavore movement stands on three pillars.

Locally grown food tastes better.

Food grown within a 100 mile radius must be eaten in season or handpreserved. This means it’s fresh, tastes better, and is more nutritious than foods laden with chemical preservatives.

Local food supports a strong local economy.

supermarkets, farmers receive pennies on the dollar for their goods. Buying locally, directly from farmers, supports small farms and sustainable farming practices.


Local products are better for the environment. A ripe banana from Ecuador sounds wonderful on a cold winter day (or even a warm summer one) but unless you live in Ecuador, that banana travelled thousands of miles to reach your plate. Eating locally consumes fewer fossil fuels and is generally more sustainable and help support biological diversity. Plus, you can get about the same amount of potassium from a good old potato grown in your backyard.

Locally grown food helps create community.

It’s easy to notice the difference between a crowded, sterile grocery store where cheese slices come separately packaged and an open air farmer’s market where people call you by name and the corn comes from the back of a pickup truck. Local food helps people take part in their communities.

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Chicago, and I took the train, I used fossil fuels. Yesterday, I was in Lincoln [Nebraska] participating in an Earth Day panel and I drove, I used fossil fuels. But this education about where our food comes from and how it affects ourselves, the environment, the animals - this is important. And of course it’s not easy to farm organically as opposed to today’s popular farming methods. First there’s the social aspect. You can’t blame farmers for convention. There’s lots of social pressure not to change practices. I’m just different, a woman, an implant from the East, so it’s okay. But the people who stand up for organic practices are real heroes because they must stand up against community – they have to break ties with co-ops, the bank. Standing up for what you believe in is usually difficult. Then it’s a matter of funds. It’s easy to get crop insurance for corn and soybeans, but you pay a premium for organics because people think it’s just negligence - they think if you aren’t pouring chemicals on the crops so you must not be doing anything. Take raising chickens for example. It’s probably not profitable on its own, but they spread manure on the terraces and eat insects among the cows. Now, you can’t get insurance for chickens eating insects, but they serve the purpose of an insecticide naturally, without the chemicals. But even if you have the chickens, insurance won’t cover you if you don’t

spray insecticides. They think it’s negligence.

There’s also the issue of cost. Many people assume that organic products cost more, and sometimes that’s true. But you are emphasizing the real price of how we’re treating the land. Right. People do not understand where their food comes from. We’re trying to let them know how their food purchases affect the landscape. We’re trying to show farmers

the benefit of organic farming, how it enhances the land, how it’s healthier without the chemicals, and how it’s profitable, especially for small family farms. I feel so fortunate to be doing something I’m passionate about. So many people just live and clean their apartment. Why aren’t they doing something to help other people? It’s the 21st century, for goodness sake. Let’s get with it!

Madison, Indiana completed its first full year of CSA activity, and the project was a hit. Across Indiana, there are thirty-five CSA’s. Kentucky claims forty, and Ohio boasts a full eighty-four co-ops.

Want to know one farmer’s advise on how to get with it…how to participate in the agricultural to help our world? Read on… If you grow a garden, check out Tillers International for information on traditional sowing techniques, or purchase your seeds from Seed Savers Exchange to support heirloom seeds that are being bred out of existence thanks to hybrids and big farming. If you’re a consumer, look for the USDA’s National Organic vary from sugar and animal products to veggies and potato chips.



There’s also the Raw Milk Movement, which promotes the boycotting of processed milk products in favor of raw, humane, non-toxic, small-scale traditional processing.

Community Supported Agriculture cooperatives (CSA’s) provide a If you’re looking to eat locally or just reconnect with the land,

direct link to local farmers and farmland. Individuals pledge to support a local farm, either through funding, labor, or both. In return, consumers can participate in growing their food, get their hands dirty, and enjoy the satisfaction of eating local, organic products. Another great organization is Slow Foods International, a non-profit that counteracts fast food, fast life and the disappearance of local food traditions and food culture. Along with Seed Savers, they are heavily involved with preserving local biological diversity. And do some research. The documentary King Corn is a great place to start understanding issues related to organics, biodiversity, and agriculture in general. It’s the story of corn in modern America, told through the perspective of two friends who set out to grow an acre of corn after discovering that their bodies are primarily composed of corn.

Conscientia { 63 }

{ Focus

on the arts


Paying homage to the intricacy and wonder that is the natural world is no easy task, but Kentucky poet Lisa Williams does so with grace in her second collection of poetry, ‘Woman Reading to the Sea.’ By pondering our connection to nature and what we may learn from the Earth, Williams creates works rich in imagery and sound and has earned the prestigious Barnard Women Poets Prizes as selected by Joyce Carol Oates. Along with her previous collection, ‘The Hammered Dulcimer,’ these poems stand out as some of today’s finest nature poetry. The following works are from ‘Woman Reading to the Sea,’ which you can purchase at your local bookstore.

Iceberg The iceberg moves will-less through shades of gray and gray a tower of clouded glass

its mists (if you could stand in the middle of it all) is the smell of ice and brine, rough sea purist wind

seeming proud of isolation, rising in air. Or the iceberg’s top lies flat along the water, its misshapen

that blows from far-off coasts and stays here, freshening. You would taste a tinge of time

turrets jutting below the surface like an upside down, Gothic cathedral made of ice.

on your tongue, its encrystalized distances jagged in the strong stark absence of lament – that chunk of knowledge always inaccessible

Another tower and its moat or the inverted iceberg, or tipped cathedral dipped in the green-black liquid and remote

but always defended by the physical world, without judgment or pretense, simply floating.

Farthest Flame Whatever you are comes from the sun. It is useful to remember this as you go around chasing days. The sun is not round. It appears so because its geometries are burning. It cannot have a fixed shape because its edges are lopped by flame. Clipped, cut, carved in a moving margin peaked with fluid fire. Fire that is no color. Fire of such wild roil it kills the idea of color. Fire the idea of which is only a beginning to your mind and its elliptical frames. This fire is your reason for being, the reason itself, and in it nothing rests, nothing lives or breathes for millions and millions of miles. The sun has many tongues it flicks coarsely, it flicks loudly. Its eruptions are violent, a violence it own change claims. It can swallow its own disturbances on a blistered surface curling to the core yet send out signals through the cold of space ending gently, millions of miles away. It has a light touch, this fevered origin after, long after, it leaves this place repetitive, terrible, where dark is eaten again and again by panicked tongues, where the fire and its tongues eat darkness.

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A Cove

What I saw there traveling with my mother along the dipping coast as I peering into small coves, private, unreachable, hundreds of feet below and tossed with lucid water – a guidebook green-blue ocean beside a perfectly white-grained shore – was nothing but the water and the shore and the black rugged rocks the ocean rocked against and the calm, dark, longer reaches at the horizon above an unseen floor that verged and slipped, I knew to desolate fathoms. It was later I imagined the fish, stranded in wild water, what a life might be that lived perpetually moved, submitted to the crush, back and forth, of a rocking border, the fingernail of shore never an arrival, unless by mistake. What you won’t find in the shallows of the Pacific’s shoreline coves is the giant clam whose scalloped shell might be a flute, an animal which does not move except to open and close its shell. But you might discover

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hordes of pale crustaceans gathered and thinned with the tide, and the grass rockfish whose scales are the hue of bluegrass, and the moray eel whose life began as a silver dart

and bends to touch the ground on the other, springing back and forth in the happenstance current

in some fresh river, and who will, with its low-slung jaw and giant eyes kill an octopus,

its fixed, moving life. When I feel a darkness I think of the small fish hanging

and the fragile-appearing starfish who can, with its retractable stomach, grip and suck

in their net of mist, helpless, silent as wisdom is,

a clam clean of its insides, and the limpet whose foot strikes the rock, whose pointed shell looks like a Chinese hat,

the water’s torment sweeping them from one bare moment to another, like the wave of a mood.

and, most telling of all, the small, circular, coin-like “sailors-on-the-wind�

Unflappable, occasionally swimming against the current (but not often), they prove

so helpless they can go only where the tide carries. They end up here, as if cupped in a palm

the case that it may be stronger, when some force is upon you, to let yourself

always tipping, sloshed to a blue, iridescent phalanx. A bloom of them may wash up and die

be tugged in the wake of its gesture, however mindless. If you wait, and if you move

in a gurgle of color, stranded on the rocks. In this spirited flux it is good to be flexible, like the postelsia,

very slowly, it may catch you in its surge and hold you as one body holds another body, and return you to your life.

a sturdy plant rooted to the rock. When the tide blusters and swells, its stalk bends to touch the ground on one side

MassMMedia ediaMessages Lester Brown’s new book, Plan B, Mobilizing to Save Civilization, argues that “the choice is ours – yours and mine. We can stay with business as usual and preside over an economy that continues to destroy its natural support systems until it destroys itself, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that changes direction, moving the world onto a path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come. Life expectancy in Japan and Sweden: greater than 80 years. Life expectancy of individuals in Botswana and Swaziland: less than 40 years. Number of people, globally, who lack access to safe water: 1.1 billion. Number of human diseases linked to air and water pollutants: 200. Number of people who are undernourished and often hungry: 862 million. Number who are over nourished and overweight: 1.6 billion. Percentage of young people who graduate from college with a 2 to 4 year degree in Canada and Japan: Over 50. Number of elementary school age youth in developing countries who are not enrolled in school at all: 72 million. The amount of grain required to feed one person for an entire year equals. the amount of grain required to fill an SUV’s 25-gallon gas tank once. Percentage of all urban trips in Netherlands using a bicycle: 30. Percentage in the United States: 1. Cost of gasoline in the United States taking into account the price of discovering oil, pumping it to the surface, refining it into gasoline, delivering gas to service stations, and the gas itself: $15 per gallon. Price of gasoline in Winter 2008, taking into account government subsidies: $1.60 per gallon. Number of years world oil production has exceeded new oil discoveries: 20. Number of barrels of oil pumped worldwide in 2006: 31 billion. Number of barrels of oil discovered worldwide in 2006: 9 billion. Ratio of energy available from the entire world’s oil and gas reserves as compared to the amount available through geothermal power: 1:50,000. Percentage of homes in Iceland powered by geothermal power: 90. Number of Europeans who power their homes with the wind: 60 million. Number of Chinese whose homes rely on rooftop solar water heaters for hot water: 40 million. Ratio of current world energy consumption to wind energy available on Earth on a sustainable basis: 1:7. Year when the U.S. National Academy of Sciences calculates that humanity’s collective demands on natural resources first surpassed the earth’s regenerative capacity: 1980. Number of years’ supply of the world’s recoverable reserves remaining: 17 years of lead, 19 years of tin, 25 years of copper, 54 years of iron ore, and 68 years of bauxite. Percent of the world’s remaining forests that are undisturbed and support viable plant and animal populations: 40. Percent of the world’s 10,000 bird species, 5,416 mammals, and all fish in danger of extinction: 12, 20 and 39. Number of times over one fish population (cod) rebounded after the government granted protection for its breeding and feeding waters: 50.

Download Brown’s page turning, practical, and applicable assessment of how human civilization can move towards a more responsible future FREE from the Earth Policy Institute website or purchase it at your local bookstore.

Mobilizing to save civilization, means restructuring the economy, restoring its natural support systems, eradicating poverty, stabilizing population and climate, and above all, restoring hope. We have the technologies, economic instruments, and financial resources to do this.


[broadcast] National Geographic Energy Broadcasts Nine clips from everyone’s favorite magazine to help YOU understand the impacts of our current energy practices, how alternatives can help, and how you can take action to preserve our world. The grassroots movement’s slogan is, “One Climate. One Future. One Chance,” and they’re rallying Americans to voice their opinions and fight climate change with political change.

Hydropower 16%

Renewables 2% Coal



The Homeowner’s Nuclear Guide to Hydropower Renewable Solar, Thermal, Energy Wind, and other Natural Gas

Nuclear 15% Natural Gas 20%


Coal 40%

Oil 6%


We all want to use it, but the impacts of harnessing and burning energy are putting the Earth’s (and therefore our own) future at risk. These media resources put the problem in perspective, and help you make small and large changes that will save our planet.


by Dan Chiras A guide to all things alternative energy, whether you just want to be sustainable or you’re looking to get off the grid all together.


Energy Crossroads

An award winning film examining the many problems associated with energy consumption, as well as real solutions. Winner of the Colorado Environmental and REEL Earth Film Festivals.

A Midwest company with efficient, effective, and alternative energy solutions for your home and business. Free utility evaluation. Offer solar, wind, and thermal options, plus information on tax breaks.

Visit for information.

Conscientia { 69 }

Now You Know, So GO! Conscientia tells the story of nature’s splendor and all the ways we can enjoy, appreciate, and protect it. Now it’s time to get out and explore. There is an endless array of opportunities to experience the natural world, to learn about its intricacies, to soak in its magnificence. Look in your back yard, at the park, in the stream - nature is everywhere! Whether you’re a veteran nature-lover or a brand new one, here are some exciting ways to discover the natural world.

January 10.11.

Sled Dog Classic

Watch sled dog racers mush teams through challenging courses. Punderson State Park, North East Ohio


Caves Crawlathon

Cave until your heart’s desire! Wild caving, canoeing, rappelling, kids’ caving trips, and more. Carter Caves State Resort Park, Northeast Kentucky


A Sense of Wonder

A one woman theatre portrayal of founding mother of conservation biology, Rachel Carson. Hanover College

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Trees without Leaves

Learn to ID trees based on their bark, branches, and other leaf-less indicators on this easy walk. Spring Mill State Park, Southern Indiana

February Weekends. Refrigerated Toboggan

Slip and slide down this frozen sled ride. Pokagon State Park, Northern Indiana


Bill Nye the Science Guy

Come hear everyone’s favorite stand-up scientist speak on water and our world. Hanover College


Winter Hike

A four mile self-guided hike through the park’s winter wonderland. Caesar Creek State Park, Southwest Ohio

March 14.

Wilderness Survival

For adventures age 10 16. Come learn to make Cross Country a fire without matches, Orienteering Meet find your way through the forest, and build a Use your map and temporary shelter. compass to seek out orienteering markers and John James Audubon State Resort Park, beat the competition. Northern Kentucky Iriquois Park, Louisville, Kentucky



Bee, Bat, Bluebird Nesting Box Workshop

Come build a home for your favorite flying friend. Malabar Farm State Park, Northeast Ohio

Winter brings cold weather hikes, sledding, and a world of snow-covered splendor.


33rd Annual Maple Syrup Festival

Learn how people through time have harnessed the trees’ most delicious sap, and then spread some across your pancakes at breakfast. Hueston Woods State Park, Southwest Ohio


Spring Symposium: The Challenge of the Future

Join four speakers as they debate how we can move forward sustainably and responsibly. Hanover College


Trail Building

Lend a hand to maintain the trails. Groups meet the 3rd Saturday monthly. Morgan-Monroe State Forest, Central Indiana



Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Joined this well-known environmentalist in striving for “Our Environmental Destiny.” Hanover College


Stream Monitoring

Springtime is perfect for a bit of belly biology - hunker down close to the wildflowers and learn from their patient, life-giving beauty.



Earth Day Indiana

Celebrate the Earth with over 100 environmental and conservation exhibits, live music, activities for kids, and good food. Indianapolis, Indiana


Dogwood Writers’ Conference

A workshop for all writers, from the novice to the experienced. Help protect our streams: Greenbo Lake State volunteer to monintor Resort Park, Northeast water quality and wildlife Kentucky activity at a nearby stream. Loveland, OH gcenvironmental


11th Annual Wings Over Muscatatuck

A festival celebrating birds and the natural environment. Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Central Indiana


Grown Bluegrass Festival

Two days of picking and grinning, including open mic. opportunities John James Audubon State Park, Western Kentucky

Conscientia { 71 }

Now You Know, So GO!

July 17-21.

Trail Maintenance

Help maintain the Buckeye Trail, a footpath that extends 1444 miles in Ohio.



Wednesdays Family Fun Night


Reptile Invasion

Lizards and snakes and salamanders, oh my! Come learn about these wild critters. Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, Southwest Indiana


Touring Ride in Rural Indiana A week-long journey through Indiana’s scenic countryside.

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POPS at the Park

Bring along a picnic and relax to the tunes of the Head to the Columbus Zoo Eastern Kentucky University Orchestra. and Aquarium for some While Hall State Historic family activities during Site, Northeast their extended hours. Kentucky Colombus, OH


Arch Country National Trails Day Guided Hikes Pitch in to maintain the parks’ trails and eradicate invasive species. Turkey Run and Shades State Parks, Western Indiana


A day of intense hiking focused on the area’s cliffs and arches. Natural Bridge State Park, Central Kentucky

Last Weekend. Forecastle Festival

A three day gathering of musicians, artists, and environmentalists. Louisville, Kentucky

August 7-23.

Indiana State Fair

One of the largest and most exciting agricultural fairs in the nation. Indianapolis, Indiana


Hot August Blues Festival Three days of the best blues around. Kenlake State Resort Park, Southwest Kentucky

September 16.

International Ozone Day

Give the skies a break today - walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation.


Overnight Canoe Excursion

Grab a paddle and get out on the water on this overnight canoe trip. Rough River State Resort Park, Central Kentucky


All Month.

Two days of fossil digs, fossil bed hikes, mineral digs, and more. Falls of the Ohio State Park, Southern Indiana

High-tech treasuring hunting for everyone, everywhere. Use your GPS to find hidden caches in parks, cities, fields - everywhere! Visit to get started.

Falls Fossil Festival

October 16.17.18.

Fall Photography Weekend

Digital photography contest with divisions ranging from ‘Point and Shoot’ to ‘Masters.’ Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, Southeastern Kentucky The warmer months are great for exploring lakes, streams, and ponds. From water lilies to blue herons, these waterways are teeming with life. See what you can find!



Lewis & Clark Festival


America Recycles Day


Star Party

Practice your astronomy skills: learn to read a star Reduce, reuse, and map and view the night recycle everyday, but sky through a telescope. make this one special with art work community Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Southern involvement, and more. Kentucky Visit for info.



New Year’s Eve Winter Trade Days Mountain Bash Ring in the New Year at the Fort

Peruse the goods of 18th century Historic games merchants and traders in and music, plus the fort’s cabins and demonstrations by period blockhouses. craftsmen. Fort Boonesborough Falls of the Ohio State State Park, Central Park, Southern Indiana Kentucy

with good music and family fun. Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Southeastern Kentucky

November December 8-16.

Beginner Backpacker Workshop


Village Holiday

Enjoy the sights and sounds of a historic pioneer village. Whether you’re young or Spring Mill State Park, young at heart, there is Learn the basics of Leave Southern Indiana plenty to LEARN about the No Trace natural world! Backpacking and take in the beauty of the Of course, these pages cannot Appalachians. begin to contain all the adventures Natural Bridge and Red that lay in store...these are just a River Gorge State few highlights! To learn about other Resort Parks, Eastern events in your area, visit: Kentucky

Indiana: Kentucky: Ohio:

Resources Eager to learn more? These resources range from scientific studies to websites and videos, and each one informed my knowledge of the issues presented in Conscientia. Dive in, and have fun.

The Big Picture Cerullo, Mary M. 1999. Sea Soup, A Children’s Book of Plankton. Gulf of Maine Aquarium, Maine Karleskint, Jr., George. et al. 2006. Introduction to Marine Biology. Thomson, United States. Meyer, David L. and Richard Arnold Davis. 2009. A Sea without Fish. Indiana University Press, Indiana.

Sustainable Ecosystems Institute. 2007. Endangered Species: Marbled Murrelet U.S. National Park Service. 2005. Crater Lake Reflections, Crater Lake U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service. 2005. Crater Lake Student Study Guide.

NASA. 2003. The Wild Blue Wonder.

U.N. Environmental Programme. International Lake Environment Committee. 2008. World Lake Student Conference 2008.

Yellowstone to Yukon. 2008. Making Connections, Naturally.

Sandhill Success???

News Currents Fiorillo, Anthony R., et al. 2006. Dinosauria and Fossil Aves Footprints from the Lower Cantwell Formation (latest Cretaceous), Denali National Park and Preserve. Alaska Park Science. 6.2: 41-43.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2003. Sandhill Crane. Crane.html Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary. 2003. Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska.

Greenprint Denver. 2007 Take 5 for the Environment.

International Crane Foundation. 2008. Conservation and Research.

Lee, Ingmar. 2003. Whitebark Pine: Keystone Species in Peril. Ecoforestry. Spring: 28-33.

Krapu, GL, et al. 1984. Habitat use by migrant sandhill cranes in NE. Journal of Wildlife Management. 48.2: 407-417.

Rainwater, Lisa. 2008 Silent Spring of the 21st Century? Pharmaceuticals in Our Water. Waterkeeper. 5.1 (Summer): 44-46. Seattle Audubon Society. 2008. Stellar’s Jay.

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Reinecke, KJ and Krapu, GL. 1986. Feeding ecology of sandhill cranes during spring migration in Nebraska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 50.1: 71-79. Pebble Mine

Alaskans for Responsible Mining. 2007. What is Responsible Mining?

Marine Stewardship Council. 2008. The Best Environmental Choice in Seafood.

Anglo American PLC and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. 2008. The Pebble Partnership.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2008. Seafood Watch.

Bristol Bay Alliance. 2007. Pure Water is More Precious Than Gold. Chythlook, Gary. 2008. Stop Pebble Mine. Fly Fisherman Magazine. 2008. Alaska’s Pebble Gold Mine Renewable Resources Coalition. 2008. Pebble Mine Video: Paradise in Peril.

The Great Fish Debate David Suzuki Foundation, Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform. 2008. Thriving Oceans, Healthy Economies: A Global Assessment of Closed System Aquaculture www. Aquaculture.asp Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. Fisheries & Aquaculture Department. 2006. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2006. Hites, Ronald, A., et al. 2004. Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon. Science. 303 (9 January): 226 – 229. Icicle Seafoods, Inc. American Gold Seafood. 2008. Krkosek, Martin, et al. 2007. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science. 318 (14 Dec): 1172-1175.

Orr, Craig. 2007. Estimated Sea Louse Egg Production from Marine Harvest Canada Farmed Atlantic Salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, 20032004. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 27: 187-197. Schrieber, Dorothee. 2002. Our wealth sits on the table: food, resistance, and salmon farming in two first nations communities. The American Indian Quarterly, June. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2008. Aquaculture Program. Worm, Boris, et al. 2006. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science 314 (3 November): 787-790.

Conscientia for Kids Marietta College Department of Biology and Environmental Science. 2007. Biomes of the World: The Temperate Rainforest. Save the Redwoods League. 2008. Education education/resources.shtml Sierra Club of Canada, British Columbia Chapter. 2008. Temperate Rainforest Ecology. US National Park Service. 2008. Redwood National and State Parks Visitor Guide

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Resources, Advertisements Little Did You Know... About the Arctic Danks, H.V., Olga Kukal and R.A. Ring. 1994. Insect Cold Hardiness: Insights from the Arctic. Arctic: 47 (4): 391-404. Lopez, Barry. 1986. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. Shribner, New York, New York. Pielou, E.C. 1994. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Arctic. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Sustainable Table. 2008. King Corn. Tillers International. 2003. Hands-on Learning Tillers Classes. USDA. 2008. National Organic Program. The Weston A. Price Foundation. 2008. A Campaign for Real Milk.

Our Mission is to support source reduction, reuse, composting and recycling activities in Indiana.

United States Department of the Interior National Parks Service. 2008. Wildlife Information. Whitney, Paul. 1994. Lemmings. lemmings.php.

You Say You Want an (Organic) Revolution Sarno, Elizabeth. 2008. University of Nebraska Lincoln Organics. Striving to conserve our natural resources, decrease reliance on final disposal and to encourage environmental responsibility. Learn more on our website!

Seed Savers Exchange. 2008. Passing on Our Garden Heritage. Slow Food International. 2008. Good, Clean, and Fair Food. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. 2008. Community Supported Agriculture.

Contact Us for your Green Roofing Needs

Dramatically reducing runoff volume and peak flow rate. Conserving energy and cooling the air. Restoring the ecological and aesthetic value of open space.

930 Industrial Drive Madison, In 47250

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812-265-6781 800-451-1373

Since 1970, Family Nature Summits have provided a fun and stimulating outdoor-oriented vacation, offering participants the opportunity to enjoy and learn about nature and the environment. Summits are a unique summer experience featuring a broad variety of activities and programs that appeal to singles, couples and families of all ages. Summiteers return home refreshed, encouraged and emboldened to carry on as good stewards of the earth.

The 2009 Summit will be at beautiful Lake George, NY. Learn more at:

Promoting an understanding of the natural and cultural history of river environments. For more information visit or call 812-866-6846.

Hickory Slowly, slowly falls the leaf to the ground, Its life-giving green turned orange, now brown. And pattering up on the roof is the sound of rain trickling down in chorus. Red hangs remaining in the old ‘Sassy tree, Across the drive, standing tall with the old Hickory, together lighting this gray world quietly with only the swing’s creak disturbing. It falls to the ground gently, drop, drip, drop pools in the arms of leaves and atop my shoes as I tread crimple crunch, plip plop through a exultant world bent on rest. Wet yet warmed, I crouch to see a yellow leaf’s veins, now far from its tree. The intricate web winding its way into me, the deep, damp smell in my lungs. Yes, I have known you, rain, locked in a glacier, blue and deep, and on the Oregon coast where you crashed and leaped. Felt you in the air where the tall redwoods creep, saw you rush over Montana mountain gorges. Watched you lapping up while the grey whales played, sailed on your waves at the sleepy stretching of the day. I’ve known your absence as my feet touched the rough red clay, And in those places I am still. And now, this eternal moment of mortal Fall veins soaks in my soul and there will remain. Though my steps wander far from this old country lane nothing’s the same as an Indiana rain.

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Life begins anew at Jasper National Park. Jasper began as a tourist destination, and for over 100 years, wildfires were suppressed to ensure human visitor enjoyment. Though millions flock to the park annually seeking nature’s pristine beauty, its mountain ecosystems are actually unbalanced due to the absence of fire’s destructive and regenerative effects. But in the last few years, forest managers have initiated a prescribed burn program that will eventually restore the forest to its natural state. This stand of trees was burned just a few weeks before this image was captured, and already the healing process has begun.

Profile for Hanover College

Conscientia - Winter 2009  

Hanover College

Conscientia - Winter 2009  

Hanover College

Profile for hanover

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