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Condors

The September issue of the Smithsonian magazine has an interesting article about California Condors. Currently, you can download a pdf of the article from the website.

What I found most interesting was the re-capture of the surviving 1992 released condors in order to teach them about electricity. Before this, I guess I thought they just released the condors and monitored them from afar–and the condors simply went about being wild birds. There is a lot more interaction and study of the released birds than I realized, which seems very interesting.

Links about California Condors: US Fish and Wildlife Ventana Wilderness Society

Also in this issue, is a short article about work being done to breed blight-resistant American Chestnuts. Links about American Chestnuts: American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation J.H. Craddock’s webpage at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Roadless Rule

Today I received an email from the League of Conservation Voters, which included a link to an action alert about the roadless rule in National Forests. Apparently, the environmental community has a goal of 1 million comments against the changing of the roadless rule to allow state governors to apply for roads to be built through roadless areas within their state.

I’d really like to know the precedent that exists for state governors to make decisions about federal land. National forests (and parks, etc.) belong to the federal government (I’m assuming, since, you know, there are federal agencies in charge of them)—so why should state governments have any sort of a say in what happens in federal land? It’s not like the Athens-Clarke County mayor gets to decide state policy for state parks—even if a state park existed in ACC. Do state governors get to apply for changes to military bases within their state? Somehow, I don’t think that they do—but I’m willing to be proven wrong.

Should we have roadless areas in national forests? We have studies that show building roads through previously road-free areas often negatively affects the quality of the ecosystem that the road is built through. However, national forests don’t exist only for ecosystem protection, recreational use, or people who get the warm fuzzies from thinking about land that isn’t daily impacted by humanity (hahaha).

The National Forest Service is a division of the Department of Ag, which should give you an idea that silviculture is a pretty darn important part of the national forests’ purpose. However, I don’t have experience with logging in national forests—most of the tree farming and harvesting in the Southeast is done by private companies on private land. And I don’t have a problem with logging in general—it gives me toilet paper and books, both of which I appreciate a great deal. (Although, like many other industries, I think that more could be done to soften the impact on the environment.)

So, which side should win out over whether previously road-free areas remain that way? I think there is a balance between these interests—but one that has the public’s best interest in mind (and which possibly includes building more roads). I doubt that the balance will be found by giving state governors more power over national forests in their state—I’d prefer a big picture approach, creating long-term policies that benefit the public at large, and not just the public of a particular state. If creating a big-picture approach, tailored to the particular state while keeping in mind the general (national) public, results from this rule, then it could be a good thing. If it leads to greater and significant degradation of the environment without a remarkable positive impact on either state or national populations, then we should be looking for different solutions. I, personally, believe that the latter is more likely than the former.

While looking at the National Forest Service website, I found out that there are roadless areas in Georgia (this is a pdf). The forest service has a website about the roadless rule.

Other voices: Sierra Club Society of American Foresters (a news piece) CNN (tree farmers in GA concerned about roadless rule)

Of course, like most things, this isn’t as simple as my little discussion. And people who disagree with me and think more roads are appropriate most likely believe that additional roads are necessary for reasons that are important to them. (I very much dislike the idea that people who don’t agree with me are greedy or evil or ignorant—most likely they simply don’t share my priorities or perspectives. As far as I know, there’s no objective gold standard that tells us which are the right answers. I try not to fall into the trap of demonizing people on the other side of issues, since I don’t think that it’s productive for anyone.)

An interesting book that is semi-related to this topic is Living with the Adirondack Forest: Local Perspectives on Land Use Conflicts by Catherine Henshaw Knott. I like this book not only because it explores different ideas about land use (logging v. recreation, for instance), but because it is also about the differences between old-timers and new-comers in a community. As someone who grew up as an “old-timer” in a small community, I always think it is interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in areas other than my own.

Last chance before classes

Sunday I had my first real hiking adventure since I started my blog. My friend, E, and I drove up to the mountains and wandered around a bit—overall, it was a fabulous day—both hiking and catching up on what we did during the summer.

In Athens, the day started out drizzly and very overcast and didn’t look promising. We decided to take our chances, since the forecast called for partly cloudy and set out. Halfway to Clayton, the sun broke through the clouds and all was right in our corner of the universe.

Our first destination was Warwoman Dell Day Use Area, which is three miles east of Clayton, GA. It was easy to find—there’s a sign right before the turn, so you know exactly where to go when you pass it and turn around. Coming from Clayton, the road is an extremely acute right hand curve, in fact, I’m not sure I could have made the turn even if I had known exactly where the turn-off was and was crawling along at a snail’s pace. But, when we turned around in someone’s driveway, we got to see their mules—and mules aren’t really an everyday sight for me, so I enjoyed it.

Warwoman Dell is a nice picnic area with several short trails and access to the Bartram trail. It would be even nicer if there were a sign there with a map of the area—if one existed, I didn’t see it. The first thing we noticed is that it was extremely dark! The trees are very thick, and completely shade the picnic area and almost everything else except for the very middle of the driveway. E and I had a snack, and then wandered down the nature trail to the waterfall. This trail is only .4 miles long, and pretty simple. The waterfall at the end is lovely, and would be fun to splash under on a hot summer day. I don’t think the photo really does it justice.

One thing that was a little disturbing is the sound of traffic from the road—it can be really loud, which is a little at odds with the forest you’re walking through. We also wandered down the Bartram trail—but ended up looping back to the car.

Then comes the next part of our adventure—

Well, today I learned that

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Well, today I learned that I didn’t get the part-time job I interviewed for last week—which is a bit of a let-down. So, I consoled myself a bit by going to the Botanical Garden here in town.

I’ve always loved the Botanical Gardens, ever since I first visited for my Ecology lab. Overall, I thought Intro to Ecology was a dull class, but the labs were marvelous. They got us outside, and did a good job of what labs are supposed to do—provide hands on experience to help make lectures and topics more real.

Recently, I’ve only been going over there in the afternoons to watch the goldfinches and not walk, but today I started out with a stroll on the Orange and Purple trails. It was definitely a stroll, since this route is not really challenging and ends up being about a mile. Plus, I didn’t bother to change out of my sandals—although I regretted it when I ended up walking up the wash. For most of the way, the wash is just a decent red clay “trail” where it looks like the gardens drained during some recent construction—however, when you get within 10 feet of the garden itself, it’s completely overgrown. All I could think of were the multitudes of frabjous snakes waiting to strike my feet as I blundered by. One good part is that I got to see someone’s traps they had set out—basic collecting traps to catch small animals when they fall in.

I did see plenty of small animals myself while I was at the garden, which is always fun. Only one goldfinch today, but I also saw some towhees, tufted titmice, and the usual cardinals, chickadees, and a mockingbird. Plus, two hummingbirds and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Other than birds, I saw a rabbit and a skink with a bright blue tail. I thought I saw another wittle bitty bunny off in the grass, but after looking at it through my binoculars, it turned out to be a rat. If I knew something about insects, I could tell you what kinds of dragonflies, butterflies, and bees were flitting about. And on my way home, about two dozen Canadian geese flew out of the woods and across a pasture—a very beautiful sight.

Not a bad way to spend an hour or so, and I can mark off one more mile from my goal. Even though it wasn’t much of a hike, it counts since there was a trail and woods to wander through.

Here are a couple of pictures from a previous walk along this route.

Welcome!

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Well, my blog is finally up and running! It’s a semi-anniversary present from my sweet husband, and I appreciate his hard work very much.

My reason for wanting my own little corner of the world on the web started out with one of my crazy, ambitious schemes. (If there’s one thing I’ll never be accused of, it’s dreaming too small.) During my swings through the on-line world, I came across a set of challenges on Backpacker magazine’s website. The magazine challenges its readers (and hangers-on) to get out more—and the hiking challenge was to complete 365 miles in the year. Well, that inspired me—there’s nothing like an astronomical goal to get the juices flowing.

So, I decided on a set of goals for myself as part of my July 4th resolutions—including the 365 miles of hiking. I love getting outside—especially since the drive to the Blue Ridge is so short from home. And 365 miles—that’s just a mile a day, 7 miles a week. Simple, right? Completely do-able. A blog would be a handy record of where I’d gone, and how much I’d accomplished, and also motivate me a bit.

Since July 4th, I’ve hiked about 20 miles—which means I’m behind. Not that I’m deterred (of course not). A major problem is my lack of hiking partners—I love being with people and would completely prefer to be with another person on a trip, not to mention that it’s safer. Most of my friends, including my husband, don’t have the urge to rush out into the woods every time the sun is out. I guess I can understand that if I try really, really, really hard. There are other fun things in life, plus all the stuff that just needs to get done—like laundry. However, now that my blog is ready, I think that I’ll be more motivated to get my seven miles a week in about town—something that won’t make me too lonely.

The hiking goal was the real impetus for my blog, but it probably won’t be the only subject I write about. I hope that I’ll be able to develop some of my own thoughts about events in the larger world or various ideas that I’m rummaging through. I think this won’t be too much of a departure from the theme of “into the wilds” because following thoughts to their conclusions is the same sort of venture as setting off down a trail or on a journey. In my book, anyway.

So, here’s to hikes, walks, rambles, and (non-Ford) excursions, and the people who enjoy them.

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