The Death of one's Wilderness

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It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extra ordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations. - Jimmy Carter

 

National Parks and Wildlife Refugees a story that is not always nice

    Back in the day, when the first National Park formed in 1872, Yellowstone National Park, it was not only to protect the wilderness, but to also create the human perception of a wilderness, an uninhabited wilderness, pushing the Native American's out of their wilderness.

“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” - The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act

    Ignoring the fact that in reality what was created, was a rather unnatural habitat with the subsequent fire suppression and the predator elimination. Also, ignoring the fact that this land was partially Native American land. This perception that no one should live inside these parks, including Native Americans was also shared by environmentalists and writers, such as John Muir. 

    The wilderness act that was stated in 1964 defines the wilderness as:

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." - 1964 Wilderness Act
 
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“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Source: Birth of a National Park

"Secretary of the Interior Lucius Lamar felt the new national parks should be managed to preserve "wilderness," in his mind defined as uncut forests and plentiful game animals." Source: Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks

 

    In fact, the Native American have a lot to teach us about sustainability and living off the land, caring for the environment, because if we do not, we wont get that much in return. We can have wilderness out there, along with people who are sustainably caring for their land. It is when we start to get greedy that things start to take a turn towards the dark side.

    Nowadays the view of the Native American's use of the land is somewhat changed, and in 1996 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was put in place. 

“The National Park Service recognizes that site-specific worship is vital to Native American religious practices. As a matter of policy and in keeping with the spirit of the law, and provided the criteria listed in section 8.2 for use of the parks are not violated, the Service will be as unrestrictive as possible in permitting Native American tribes access to park areas to perform traditional religious, ceremonial, or other customary activities at places that have been used historically for such purposes." - NPS Management Policy

    Today we also have the Native American Policy which is suppose to improve the government-to-government relationships. 

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature

    In 1995 Professor William Cronon wrote an article that highlight this exact issue, the problem with wilderness as it is created by us humans due to our perception on how a wilderness in fact should, or should not be. Back in the day the wilderness was defined as desolate, barren or a wasteland, and it was concluded that wilderness is indeed based on your own consciousness. The reason why I am bringing this up is because it seems that some politicians are stuck in this perception of wilderness as a wasteland.

 
 

Once Alaska is in your blood you will never shake it

    As you all know Alaska has a special place in my heart, just like many other place do too. When I walk out into nature and see all these mountains, rivers, deep deep forests, sandstone formations, open vistas, tundra, glaciers and many many other views I feel it in my heart. Of course this does not only happen in Alaska. You know that feeling of such joy that you don't really know if you should laugh or cry. It's not only Alaska I love, I love the wilderness, with all these great open spaces that comes with it. I want to keep these wild places wild, and would rather not develop any of these place for oil or natural gas. Did you know that back in the day the government wanted to test a nuclear bomb up in Alaska, because there is nothing there to be destroyed? I let you think about that for a moment, but that is a whole different story than the story here today. 

 
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"No other region of America has seen less human impact than the northeastern corner of Alaska"

 

The Sacred Place Where Life Begins

   There is a place far up north in Alaska, where caribou go to calve between May and July, some people call it the "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins", whereas others refer to it as the 1002 area. Regardless of what you call it, both areas are within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few things gets me as riled up as the increasing environmental issues this country are facing for each day that passes. The fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is nothing new, in fact it has been going on for decades. The Gwich'in people depend on these areas, largely because they depend on the caribou, and the caribou depend on the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain. This area has always been seen as a sacred place, for thousands of years. 

 
 

America's last truly Great Wilderness

    Many people are calling the ANWR America's last truly great wilderness. The Gwich'in calls it home. As I said, this battle has been going on for decades, more than 40 years, today is the closest we have been to develop parts of this refuge into an oil drilling environment. I can not understand how we as humans can become so greedy, so greedy of more and more and more, that we are willing to sacrifice our most beautiful parts of this world, the wilderness. But then again, the thought of beauty and wilderness can mean very different things depending on who you ask.

"man's endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and to destroy would inevitably evolve into a war against himself, a war he would lose unless he came to terms with nature." - Rachel Carson
 
 

Gwich'ins Battle

    I share, once again, the short but very important documentary about the Gwich'ins fight against the greedy politicians who want to squeeze every little bit of oil from these barren wastelands, as they refer it to. This is the Gwich'ins story:

 
 
 “A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be. And we're surrounded by the greatest of all wildernesses -- the universe.”  - Gary Snyder, NY times 1994

    What is your definition of the wilderness? Do you believe that a wilderness has to be free of any people or can you see a place as wild, even though people are actually living there?

 

November Memories

Flashback Friday

Snow

    Back in the day, you know when I was still living in Alaska, November was full of snow. Nowadays, not so much. But that is why I have all these pictures, to remind of the life I had up there, up in Alaska. Below are some Iphone and/or gopro images.

    Do you get plenty of snow where you live??

Death Canyon

 

Adventure Tuesday 

Hiking in the Tetons

    We went hiking in Death Canyon in the Tetons during our time there. As with all places you have to get there early, to beat the crowd. I am one of those too, one of those who get up early to try to get some views of the nature. I think many people have bears, bison, wolves or any other mammal on their list to see. I have seen a fair amount of bears and bison, less wolves but many coyotes. I would be very happy if I saw a large mammal, from a great distance, but if I don't I am still really happy. I love being outside, I love being able to see views, views of the mountains, views of the deep forest and views of all the tiny little flowers, or the texture of a rock.

 
 

Magical Landscape of Christmas Trees

    The Rocky Mountain forest is so beautiful. The trees are a lot different from the typical black spruce you see in Alaska. They are in the same family, but belong to different genera. The Douglas fir stands tall in the forest, tall and green, and beautiful. A typical christmas tree. Depending on what elevation you are hiking at in the Rocky Mountains, you will see different species, Douglas fir in the lower elevation and whitebark pine at the higher elevations. Sometimes you even see an Engelmann spruce or lodgepole pine, but mostly in between (in elevation)  whitebark pine and Engelmann spruce. 

 
 

Death Canyon

    We never got that far into the Death Canyon, but either way we got a very nice hike in, a beautiful but hot summer day in the mountains. What else could you ask for?

 

I don't Hike, I Saunter

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"I Don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike!"
- John Muir
 

Wednesday Thoughts

I Saunter    

    Anyone who has ever gone hiking with me can attest to the fact that I am slow, very slow. I see so many pretty things and I want to document them all. So, I saunter. I Saunter through the mountains but my focus is often times on the forest floor, the stone in the stream or the spider next to the trail. I usually say "How amazing is this" or "Wow! How lucky are we to be right here, right now". I love to be out in nature. 

 
 

    What about you? Do you Saunter?

 

Fall in Colorado

 

Flashback Friday

Time Passes Faster than Me

    I can't believe it has already been more than a year ago we went to the beautiful (but crowded) state of Colorado. I have a collection of pictures, many many pictures that I want to share. I have been so busy lately and literally have no time left to write a blogpost. I feel like I want to write something about the pictures or memories I share, instead of just posting the pictures. So, here we are, and unfortunately the posts seem to come less and less frequent. I will try to do a better job, because i really want to share my travels and experiences with you guys. 

Colorful Colorado

 
 

    We arrived in Colorado at the end of a work week, to attend the wedding of our dear friends that weekend. We had about 3 days in Colorado (if I remember correctly). The day we arrived, the day of the wedding, and lastly the day after the wedding when we also left the state. A very busy schedule for sure. We picked up our rental car at the Denver airport and quickly left the city perimeter to drive north, towards Aspen. The landscape was unreal, these fall colors that reminded us about Alaska, but then out of the blue these crazy rock outcrops that reminded us about Carbon county and parts of Utah. 

Exit 119, No Name

 
 

    On the way to the wedding destination we decided to go for a short hike. W found a hike online somewhere, which was by the No Name rest stop...I think if I remember it correctly. It took a while before we actually found the trailhead, but a nice man that lives in that area pointed us to the correct route. It had been raining during our drive there, but miraculously the rain stopped about the time we arrived, and needless to say we were the only people there. We put on our rain pants, which was a great idea, considering all the brush we hiked through during this route. Instead of talking about how many miles we should walk, we usually set a time to turn back. 

 
 

Dam and Mining Business

    We followed the trail and the No Name Creek, past some old water dam along with the new water dam. I think this is also an area where part of the residents get their water supply, but I could be wrong of course. We also passed some old mining remnants, I don't know what they used to mine here, but it looks pretty cool now. 

 
 

Hiking Through the Fall

    I love the fall. Fall in Alaska is very brief and if you don't watch out, you'll miss it. I don't know how long fall stays in Colorado, but we managed to get there during peak color. I love hiking through the forest and tundra and mountains during fall season. You see such a wide array of fall colors, deep deep red, mixed with orange and yellow, and the endless green from the coniferous trees that are creating this beautiful color range and contrast. 

 
 

It is in the Details

    As I have mentioned earlier, I usually fall behind, I tend to see the small details. The spider climbing on the grass, or the bee trying to get the last drops of nectar from the flower, the remnants of cones, who ate that cone? The lichen on the stone, I think about the time it took for that lichen to colonize that rock. That is also the very true beginning of biology, primary succession, step one in the ecosystem. We start from nothing, just a bare rock. The colonization of lichen and fungi on rocks, that then create an ecosystem producing oxygen for other living matter. Lichen can also be seen hanging from old tree branches in an old growth forest. Did you know that many lichen species are indicator species for environmental monitoring. The lichen is the first to break and die when there is an increase in the pollution, just because they are so sensitive. 

 
 

The Beauty of Fall  

    How beautiful is fall right after a rainstorm has passed, and left some frost/snow remnants on the top of the mountains? I can never ever get enough of this landscape. Endless walks through the forests, regardless if its 40 below or right after a rainstorm, during a rainstorm, or even when its close to the 90's...although, I take 40 below over of the 90's any day. 

 
 

    Do you love the fall as much as I do??

 

Fieldwork in Yellowstone part 2

 

Adventure Tuesday

My life choices and interest

    Often times I stop to think about my life choices, where I started, what paths I took and how I ended up over here, here in the US. There is no doubt that I am living a life that I love, I get to do all those things that are of big interest to me. Sure, I get the boring parts too, but even the boring parts can be enjoyable, which in some sense proves that I actually do love what I am doing. This summer I got to do fieldwork in two different areas, not my own fieldwork for once. I went to Puerto Rico with my job, and helped out with some fieldwork there. A few weeks later I flew into Jackson Wyoming, W picked me up and we drove into the Grand Teton National Park. The following week we spent most of our time in both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. The fieldwork itself was in Yellowstone during this trip.

 
 

A tale of several fires

    Both W and I study fires for our PhDs, I study how wildfires affect the stream water chemistry and the connection between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems up in Alaska. Our work is based on climate change and its effect on wildfires, we are trying to understand how a shift in climate might affect the future ecosystems in Alaska, and in the rocky mountains. W studies how changing wildfire regimes and climate affects tree seedling establishment after fires in sub alpine and boreal forest. Alaska with its boreal forests and the Rockies with coniferous and sub alpine flora are two very different ecosystems, but with many similarities. One really important similarity is that changing fire regimes likely mean profoundly different ecosystems in the future. 

 
 

Getting dirty

    We share the passion, the passion for our nature. I usually get tangled up int the small details while W tries to understand the bigger picture. We spent most of the fieldwork on all fours, counting seedlings, stumps, trees, charred vegetation, cones, ghost logs and logs. Temperatures were in the 90s and we were basically in a black forest. Mosquitos were not necessarily a big issue, but they were there. By the end of each day we were all black, tired and hungry. We camped at a campground outside the park and swam in the river most evenings. I had the time of my life.

 
 

    Did you go on any adventures this summer?