26 January 2015

Up in Smoke

I've found that being an environmentalist can be addictive.

This addiction stems from a desire to help protect something I see as immeasurably special. I felt that protective urge very early in life, and it grew until I wanted to protect every single mechanism of nature.

The story of the West Coast fisher provides a great example of my addiction. As I blogged about here, after being virtually wiped out from much of its original range, the fisher has started to make a comeback with the help of reintroduction projects. I first got excited about their return when a population was reestablished in the Olympic National Park. That success led to reintroduction programs in Washington's Cascade Mountains.

Success stories certainly add to the addictive nature of environmentalism, but nothing feeds the addiction more than success that is threatened. And now, all the work that has gone into bringing the fisher back is at risk because of the illegal use of rodenticide (much of which is used to protect illegal marijuana planting) and other factors. As a result, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing listing the West Coast fisher as threatened. Check out a video explaining the proposal below:

This proposal to protect fishers and support the previous work to keep them around further triggered my protective instincts. I submitted my comments in support of the proposed listing and would like to share the opportunity with others. For more information about the proposal and how to comment on it, click here. The deadline is February 4.

Yes, I'm addicted, and I see no end to my desire to protect nature from thoughtless destruction.

22 January 2015

At Play in the Mud

Going back rarely takes us forward except at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state.

I first went to the refuge in 1994. A lot has happened there since then, but one thing that hadn't happened until recently was my return. Seeing the product of the recent restoration work at the refuge made the wait worth it though.

In 2009, work began to remove a dike that had kept Puget Sound away from the land for more than 100 years. When the restoration was announced, I became excited. The dike had turned the area from an estuary to farmland. Its removal invited the sound back to continue the natural processes that had been blocked for so long.

Because the refuge is visible from Interstate 5, the sound's progress over the last five years continued to interest me. Whenever I drove by, I would sneak a look at the expanding mud flats. The sight of them (or the high tide over them) always made me smile. All that estuary mud represented a return to a time before human intervention and a return of nature.

Two weeks ago, I decided it was time I returned as well. My mom and I visited the refuge and spent several hours walking the trails. We saw bald eagles, great blue herons, a seal, and, because of the low tide, lots and lots of mud. It was awesome. Through the teamwork of people and nature, the refuge had seen an amazing transformation from what it had been on my first trip there. This was no stick-in-the-mud story; it was progress toward a better relationship between the human managers of the land and the refuge itself.

One of the signs along the walking path talked about all that was going on in the estuary's mud, including the lives of creatures that call it home. I'd say that's just the beginning of the story.