May 2020: Endangered Species Day & Colorado Public Lands Day
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Captain’s Log Starship 1XE, Day 15 in the month May, Earth Calendar year 2020.
Endangered Species and Public Lands go hand in hand and we are celebrating these two issues this week in Colorado. I personally feel they are an integral part of a healthy and sustainable environment, including clean air and water, and critters large and small.
And I wish Washington D.C. would agree with me for a change.
Way back when I was first engaged in conservation flying, I ended up doing a number of flights for endangered species which introduced me to the basic concept and forever made me an advocate for one of conservation’s most important acts of legislation.
The gray wolf was making its way back across the border of Canada – before there was a Department of Homeland Security. Wolves had basically been eradicated with poisons, especially in Yellowstone during the government’s predator control programs in the first decades of the 1900s. This program essentially eliminated the gray wolf from Yellowstone. The last wolves were killed in in 1926.
So back in the early 1990s, conservationists were enabling studies to track the “alien” wolves and study where they were going and who and what they were eating. With the use of telemetry, I had the privilege of assisting in these programs, landing in remote strips up in the Flathead Valley of Montana, north of Kalispell, and circling and circling until we had a positive ID of one of these amazing animals. For the science to be accurate it was important for us to make visual contact as wolves were being killed, and many times we were flying over nothing more than a discarded telemetry collar. One instance that forever changed my thinking about endangered species and the wolf, in particular, was a very low-level pass as the wolf looked me straight in the eye and the passage from Aldo Leopold leapt into my mind, “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.”
By popular demand across the country and extensive years of scientific study the wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 thereby restoring one of our most iconic landscapes with its G-d given quota of species.
And then of course during these weeks of contemplation is Colorado Endangered Species Week (May 10-16) and Colorado Public Lands Day (May 16). The concept of public lands and celebrating them is relatively unique in the world, and as Woody Guthrie so poignantly penned, “This land is your land, and this land is my land from California, to the New York Island. From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me.” Public lands in the US are owned by everyone!
We are participating in these celebrations through a series of online activities and by continuing to distribute our virtual aerial educational tours that we are creating here in the phantasmagoric times of COVID. These short videos cover the most salient issues for our conservation partners with go-pro and video and expert commentary to give a semblance of the actual experience of being in our aircraft. Please watch our latest virtual tour over an area called Grape Creek, and the threats to one of our Colorado endangered species, Bighorn Sheep.
Our public lands are threatened and the Endangered Species Act is threatened these days. As we slowly emerge from being sheltered we are so fortunate to be able to get back out in the wilds and rejuvenate our spirits amidst the open spaces and the wild critters that abound in the great expanses of our great country.