People We Have Learned From In The Field 2010
November 18, 2010 - Nicasio, CA
John Wick, Marin Carbon Project, Nicasio, CA
A native of San Francisco, John Whick, of the Marin County Carbon Project, began his journey into using grazing as managing a landscape nearly 20 years ago when he bought a 500 acre ranch just outside of Point Reyes Station, Ca. In coordination with several professors from UC Berkeley, John has developed a proscribed way of managing the grazing on his land to boost carbon sequestration. Through the use of study plots, each with their own level of grazing, John has found a sweet spot that provides just enough impact to force grasses to put more carbon into the soil in order to make up for the affects of grazing.
November 15, 2010 - Near Lebec, CA
Mike White, Conservartion Science Director, The Tejon Ranch Conservancy, Lebec, CA
Chris Niemela, Conservation Scientist, The Tejon Ranch Conservancy, Lebec, CA
Mike White works for the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, an organization that monitors conservation efforts on the Tejon Ranch. The ranch is a the largest private property in California. Recently there have been negotiations over which parts of the ranch to put under conservation easement and which to develop. The ranch is located in a very important area—an ecoregion boundary between the Pacific coast, the Mojave Desert, California’s central valley and the Sierra Nevada. After extensive negotiations with environmental groups, up to 80% of the more than 250,000 acres of wilderness will not be developed. There is a plan to have the Pacific Crest Trail rerouted to the ranch, and ultimately grant some public access. We worked with Mike and Chris, a predatory bird specialist, studying Joshua tree growth patterns in the Mojave. The Tejon Ranch Conservancy is trying to learn as much about the property as possible. The Joshua tree plots should help them in a long-term study of Joshua tree growth at its westernmost boundary.
November 14, 2010 - Johnson Valley, CA
Jim Harvey, The Alliance for Responcible Energy Policy, Johnson Valley, CA
Cathy Harvey, The Alliance for Responcible Energy Policy, Johnson Valley, CA
The Westies spent the morning hiking around Johnson Valley, California with energy activist Jim Harvey. Jim advocates for decentralized power generation. Instead of allowing large utility companies to build solar plants and transmission lines across the desert, Jim argues that we should be copying the Germans and installing photovoltaic panels on homes. It makes sense economically and environmentally, argues Jim. After the initial investment in panels, people will save money on their electricity bills and their property values will increase, and no land will be disturbed. Jim founded the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy when he learned that the canyons behind his house in the Mojave Desert were the site of the proposed 500kv Green Power North transmission line. Jim built community support to defeat the power line, but he has continued working. The Mojave is the site of countless proposed utility-scale solar and wind power developments. Jim sees no reason to disturb the pristine and ecologically intact desert when distributed generation (home photovoltaic solar) is a better alternative.
November 13, 2010 - Near Phoenix, AZ
Rick Bowen, Plant Manager, Tessera Solar, Maricopa County, AZ
Mike Branch, Operations Manager, Tessera Sola, Maricopa County, AZ
Kim Whitney, Office Manager, Tessera Solar Facility, Maricopa County, AZ
Rick, Kim, and Mike of Tessera Solar were kind enough to show us around their demonstration facility, the Maricopa Solar Field. We got to see and learn about their Suncatcher solar technology. The large parabolic mirrors focus sunlight to drive Sterling engines, producing electricity. This informative stop allowed us to learn about the potential benefits of utility-scale solar driven electricity generation.
November 10, 2010 - Near Sunizona, AZ
Valer and Joe Austin, Cuenca Los Ojos Foundation
Valer and Joe Austin hosted the Westies for several nights on their ranch near the Coronado National Forest in Southern Arizona. Valer and Joe are originally from New York, but they moved out to Arizona several decades ago. Over the years, they have been restoring watersheds on their property through the implementation of gabiones and trincheras, simple stone water catchment systems placed in incised arroyos. They generously invited the Westies into their home for dinner, discussion of their ecological work, and hospitality.
November 1-12, 2010 - Throughout New Mexico
Paul Arbetan, Professor of Ecology
We met Paul Arbitan in Bandelier National Monument near Santa Fe, NM for the beginning of a nearly two week long ecology segment. Over the 12 days that we spent with him, we walked all around the Colorado Plateau and Chihuahuan desert learning the various plant species that exist in the area and their ecological significances. Extremely experiential, this segment not only taught us many of the basic principles of ecology, but also established for us a foundational knowledge from which we can now more easily judge and determine the significance of the many claims regarding grazing pressures that other instructors have made.
October 27, 2010 - Las Trampas, NM
The Gemini Farm Crew
We spent a crisp October day with the farm crew at Gemini Farm in Las Trampas, New Mexico. Gemini Farm was stared eight seasons ago by a two brothers and a friend from Sante Fe. They produce mostly root crops on their eight cultivated acres. Using a team of draft mules, they provide for themselves and sell produce at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market and to Santa Fe restaurants. Throughout the day we helped the crew harvest Jerusalem artichokes and carrots. The vegetables we harvested will join the cabbages, parsnips, beets, potatoes and rutabagas in the root cellar. These crops will be stored, eaten, and sold throughout the winter. It was inspiring to be exposed to this small operation fueled by a back to the land ethic. We got a sense for how small scale agricultural relies on ingenuity, thrift and spirit.
October 26, 2010 - Near El Valle, NM
William deBuys, Author, El Valle, NM
William spent four days with the Westies helping us improve our writing. We focused on creating interesting characters and describing place by taking hikes on and around his land in northern New Mexico. We were also lucky enough to hear excerpts from William’s forthcoming book on climate change and how it will affect the American Southwest. In spite of the sub-freezing temperatures (down to 19 degrees Fahrenheit at night), we had a great time and appreciated William’s generosity, as well as his help with our writing.
October 26, 2010 - near Santa Fe, NM
Courtney White, Executive Director, Quivira Coalition, Santa Fe, NM
Courtney White went to Reid College, just down the Columbia from Whitman. Courtney has been involved in the grazing debate for over a decade, and is the author of the book Revolution on the Range. He is a proponent of the radical center—the belief that grazing does not need to be good cows vs. bad cows, but that the conversation can move past the two sides to find compromise. Courtney is thinking seriously about climate change with regard to natural resources around the west. Courtney advocates taking the interesting approach of using cattle and selective grazing to both improve the range and sequester carbon.
October 25, 2010 - Taos, New Mexico
Kendall Clark, Carson National Forest Supervisor, USFS Taos, NM
Martin Pfeiffer, USFS, Taos, NM
The Westies met with Kendall and Martin to discuss climate change on the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. They discussed the impacts of drought and ensuing beetle infestations in this region. Kendall and Martin used declining aspen populations as an example of an increased challenge to water and biodiversity in the American West. It was an engaging and thought-provoking follow up to earlier fieldwork the Westies had completed.
October 22, 2010 - Near Page, AZ
Paul Ostapuk, Manager of Environmental Health and Safety, Navajo Generating Station, Page, AZ
While spending a day learning about energy in the Navajo Nation, the Westies had the opportunity to meet with Paul Ostapuk. Paul is the Manager of Environmental Health and Safety at the Navajo Generating Station, a coal fired power plant. Paul showed us around the plant, which generates enough power for 3 million residents. The coal is mined from Black Mesa, also in the Navajo Nation, and the electricity generated from the plant powers the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile pipeline carrying water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson. It was very interesting to hear about the Station’s processes and environmental precautions.
October 22, 2010 - Shonto, The Navajo Nation
Brett Isaac, Shonto Community Developement Corporation, Shonto, The Navajo Nation
Brett Isaac’s work for the Shonto Community Development Corporation and the Shonto Economic Development Corporation centers around renewable energy projects in the Navajo community. Brett met with the Westies at the Shonto Chapter House to speak with us about his goals for future energy development, which include small-scale solar projects and a new “green” government and community building. Brett works to unite the many parts of his community and help them realize renewable energy solutions.
October 22, 2010 - Bluff, UT
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, Flagstaff, AZ
Roger, of the Grand Canyon Trust, joined the Westies for two fun-filled days in the Grand Canyon area of Arizona. The crew first met up with him at the Shonto Chapter House of the Navajo Nation. Roger introduced us to Brett Isaacs at the chapter house and then led everyone to the Navajo Generating Station. That night Semester in the West stayed at the Trust’s Kane Ranch in the beautiful grassland area above Marble Canyon. The Westies enjoyed late night conversation about the history of the ranch, writing and literature with Roger. The next day he graciously took some students on a breath-taking hike through Marble Canyon, sharing knowledge about the Grand Canyon National Park along the climb. Semester in the West couldn’t thank Roger enough for his hospitality and insightful information of the area.
October 21, 2010 - Bluff, UT
Ann Walka, Poet, Flagstaff, AZ
Ann Walka is an eloquent poet. She met with us for a day just outside of Bluff, Utah and guided us through a workshop on “list poems” and “map poems.” We focused on the sounds and meanings of words, the power of verbs, and the consciousness of intricate observation. We were all surprised with the creative talent she invoked in us. We closed the evening with some readings of the day’s work as thunder rumbled overhead and rain began to fall. Thanks for your lovely readings and your inspirational guidance Ann! We have now acquired a new way of seeing and expressing a landscape.
October 20, 2010 - Bluff, UT
Joe Pachak, Artist, bluff, UT
Local Bluff, Utah artist Joe Pachak graciously shared his knowledge of ancient pueblo culture artifacts with us, taking us to special ruin sites along the impressive sandstone formation known as Comb Ridge. His enthusiasm for the petroglyphs and pictographs that color alcove walls was contagious and we spent a full day exploring Comb Ridge and marveling at the plethora of artifacts that remain. Joe's passion for art and interest in ancient pueblo cultures has lead him to illustrate thousands of the cave wall images. He looks for reoccurring motifs in the rock art, iconography that reveals a rich cultural mythology.
October 15, 2010 - Back of Beyond, The Known Universe
Craig Childs, Writer, Crawford, CO
Craig Childs, a nature writer and explorer, spent four days with us in the canyons and tributaries of the Green River near Moab, Utah. His approach to writing is one that relies very much on experience, and throughout our time with him we spent every day walking the slick rock and climbing the canyons and area that he has come to know intimately through years of walking and writing. Interspersed throughout our explorations, Craig spoke with us about the power of place, about how we can use our knowledge and closeness with a place to create an artful and thoughtful piece of writing. Perched atop an ancient solidified sand dune, we read aloud and discussed our pieces, coming to know, both through word and through walking, what it means to share a place with another.
October 14, 2010 - Snowmass, CO
Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability, Aspen Ski Company, Aspen, CO
A self-proclaimed ‘environmental guy,’ Auden Schendler is more than just the Vice President of the sustainability sector of the Aspen Ski Company, he lives and breathes climate activism. He shared his thoughtful and provoking insights with us at an Aspen, Colorado golf club. Ritzy as it may seem, he has found value in working with country clubs and fancy hotels because they give the opportunity to be influential towards people of power. Aspen has the obligation to try to solve problems because they have the money, he said. Auden helped us recognize our role in solving climate issues and was an inspiration to keep fighting to make a difference, fighting for what we believe.
October 14, 2010 - Aspen, CO
David Hornbacher, Deputy Director of Utilities and Renewable Energy, City of Aspen, Aspen, CO
Steve Rossello, Water Engineer, City of Aspen, Aspen, CO
Mr. Bokenko, Water Engineer, City of Aspen, Aspen, CO
We met with three representatives of the Aspen water and power utility under a bright alpine sun. David Hornbacher, Steve Rossello and Mr. Bokenko all work on different parts of the utility, managing everything from power to water. Aspen is a proud community, which up until 1958 was powered 100% by hdyropower. The goal for these three men is to again reach 100% renewables by 2015. While a steep goal, Aspen is adopting innovative power savings and looking at bringing in more Solar and Hydro power to fill the renewables gab.
October 14, 2010 - Near Aspen, CO
Alex Daue, BLM Action Center Renewable Energy Coordinator, The Wilderness Society, Denver, CO
Alex, from the Wilderness Society, joined us in Aspen, during our section on renewable energy sources. “If you are serious about global warming, you need to have energy efficiency, conservation, clean energy and big projects,” he stated. He presented us with the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy at a large scale, in the face of climate change. Alex presented us with the existing options (solar, wind, geothermal), the recently approved mega-projects backed by the Wilderness Society (and other proposals), and possible sites where renewable energy might be developed. During his presentation, we discussed the trade-offs between damaging landscapes for clean energy as well as the risk of developing new projects too fast and at the same time, the necessity of doing it, to reduce carbon emissions. Would you rather save a desert tortoise or reduce our consumption of fossil fuels?
October 13, 2010 - Near Aspen, CO
Jim Stark, United States Forest Service, Aspen, CO
Jim Stark met Semester in the West in the Roaring Fork Valley, home of Aspen, Colorado to talk about alternative energy on public lands. Jim spoke with us about the benefits and drawbacks of putting alternative energy projects on public lands as well as showing us some current projects in the Maroon Bells area. Jim showed us a micro-hydro project that powers the Maroon Bells Visitor Center and demonstrated to us that the possibilities for renewable energy on public land are numerous.
October 13, 2010 - Near Asen, CO
Randy Udall, Activist, Aspen, CO
Randy Udall is one of the nation’s leading activists in energy sustainability. Randy visited us at our camp at Snowmass Falls Ranch. In a dynamic presentation, he brought the realities of peak oil to life. He got things going by instructing three teams of Westies to gather one American’s worth of energy use per day in wood—140 pounds. Randy emphasized inevitable change. He ended by giving a plug for living vivaciously. His suggestion: an early morning run and dip in the creek. Despite the frost, Randy’s enthusiasm inspired several Westies to get out of their sleeping bags a little earlier the next morning.
October 13, 2010 - Near Aspen, CO
Eric Kuhn, General Manager, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Glenwood Springs, CO
On a beautiful autumn morning, the Westies met with Eric Kuhn, general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. He represents the water interests of the fifteen counties on the Western Slope of Colorado, which include mostly agricultural uses. Concerns over the amount of water available to Colorado through the Colorado River Basin Compact has led his organization to work toward water conservation. While they are unsure about the effects of climate change on the river, they are preparing for it anyway through water education at a municipality level. He also believes in the potential of agricultural conservation to provide more water for city growth. Eric gave us an insightful look into water conservation issues that range throughout the Western landscape.
October 10, 2010 - Paonia, CO
Sarah Gilman, Associate Editor, High Country News, Paonoa, CO
Cally Carswell, Assistant Editor, High Country News, Paonia, CO
Jodi Peterson, Managing Editor, High Country News, Paonia, CO
Emilene Ostlind, Editorial Intern, High Country News, Paonia, CO
The Westies met with High Country News staff outside their office in the sunshine of Paonia, Colorado. High Country News is an environmental magazine that focuses on issues pertinent to the American West. The non-profit organization writes articles about public lands, water, energy, tribes and they are currently expanding to also include stories on western communities. The students learned about the challenges and benefits of an environmental journalist career. Sarah, a Semester in the West alum from the 2002 program, explained that her favorite aspect of the job was the opportunity to meet influential people and continue learning about environmental issues, a student for life! High Country News is a progressive and unique magazine that is important for obtaining environmental information in a confusing world. The students were intrigued and walked away excited about the experience.
October 10, 2010 - Paonia, CO
Michelle Nijhuis, Journalist, Paonia, CO
Jack Perrin, Paonia, CO
The Westies met with Michelle Nijuis in Paonia, CO to discuss the importance, joy, and challenge of environmental journalism. On her property, next to a hay bale house under construction, we listened to a wide variety of audio journalism pieces, looking for techniques that we could adapt to our own podcasts. We wrote and presented drafts for our podcasts, and Michelle (along with all the Westies) gave insightful and kind feedback. From time to time, Michelle’s husband Jack and beautiful daughter Sylvie, dressed as a unicorn, came to say hello to the group. .
October 5, 2010 - Near Jensen, UT
Tamara Nauman, Botanist, Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, CO
Pete Williams, Tamarisk Beetle Monitoring, Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur, CO
We spent three days rafting on the Green River with Dinosaur National Monument Botanist Tamara Nauman and Dinosaur National Monument Tamarisk Beetle Specialist Peter Williams. Pete and Tamara have lived and worked in Dinosaur, CO for the past 15 years and have orchestrated the Weed Warrior program in the Monument. We were lucky enough to partake in the Weed Warrior program as volunteers pulling the invasive weed Tamarisk. Tamarisk has overtaken much of the bank area along the Green and Tamara and Pete have dedicated countless hours to its eradication. It was a fun trip and great to learn from the experts!
September 30, 2010 - Near Carey, ID
Nathan Welch, Earth Simple LLC., Hailey, ID
Lara Rozzell, Idaho Conservation League, Hailey, ID
Chupa, Mountain Chihuaha, Hailey, ID
The Westies were joined at our camp on the Lava Lake ranch by Nathan Welch, a ’99 Whitman alum, Lara Rozzell, and their dog Chupa. Nathan spoke to the Westies about his work with the Wood River Land Trust, which is working to get conservation easements on farms and rangeland. He also told the Westies about Earth Made Simple, a private consulting business he runs which uses GIS software to analyze data for environmental organizations. Lara told us about her work on renewable energy projects on public lands for the Idaho Conservation League, and also spoke about the importance of efficiency and conservation for America’s energy future. Together, they offered a lot of insights about effectively working for environmental change in rural area.
October 1, 2010 - Near Carey, ID
Mike Stevens, President, Lava Lake Lamb, Hailey, ID
We met with Mike Stevens at the “Campo Pajarista” campsite of Lava Lake Ranch near Craters of the Moon, ID. The site was named by the Peruvian sheepherders who work the ranch, for a bird scientist who had stayed there to study riparian health. Mike, the president of Lava Lake Lamb, spoke with us of the history of sheep-herding in Idaho, the difficulties and rewards of balancing ranching with land conservation, strategies and goals of the Lava Lake operation, and living with wolves and livestock in Idaho. Mike’s background in conservation biology and field science offers an innovative approach to sheep herding and careful land management. Mike offered a fresh perspective on the role of ranching in the care and understanding of land health.
September 30, 2010 - Near Carey, ID
Tess O'Sullivan, Conservation Director, Lava Lake Institute, Hailey, ID
Justin Stevenson, Field Technitian, Lava Lake Institute, Hailey, ID
Tess O’Sullivan is the manager of conservation science programs at Lava Lake Lamb. Her job involves working with various federal agencies as well as non-profit partners to create and carry out a comprehensive management plan for the ranch. She divides her time between the field and the office, gathering and analyzing data. Justin Stevenson is a field technician for the organization and helps with range monitoring and assessment. Tess and Justin introduced us to the mission and strategies of Lava Lake Lamb and started us on two field projects: one surveying fence lines for compatibility with pronghorn migration, and another adding markers to fences to improve their visibility for sage grouse.
September 29, 2010 - Near Jackpot, NV
Steve Boies, Rancher, Near Jackpot, NV
Robin Boies, Rancher, Near Jackpot, NV
On a sunny afternoon, we met with Robin and Steve Boies on their family ranch near Wells, in northern Nevada. They shared stories of cattle-working in the sagebrush and bunch grass dominated valley, highlighting consideration towards land conservation practices. Consisting of almost ninety percent public land, the ranch includes riparian and grassland areas, providing opportunities to take a holistic approach to thoughtful management. Robin works with a local group which supports collaboration amongst local farmers, regional organizations, and federal groups such as the BLM. She offered a perspective that demonstrates willingness from the ranching community to work towards more sustainable practices.
September 27, 2010 - Near Jackpot, NV
Jon Marvel, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project, Hailey, ID
Kelley Weston, President, Board of Directors, Western Watersheds Project, Hailey, ID
John Marvel and Kelly Weston of Western Watersheds Project (WWP) took students around BLM land near Jackpot, Nevada to show them the environmental impacts of ranching on the landscape. John and Kelly emphasized the economic costs of maintaining the current system of public lands grazing. A couple days later, they generously allowed the students to visit during the WWP board member’s retreat at the Greenfire Preserve on the East Fork of the Salmon River. At the Greenfire Preserve, the students had the chance to meet with the board members and engage in a dialogue about possible solutions for grazing in the West. The students greatly appreciated the hot shower, free wi-fi, and lively discussion of the future of public lands ranching.
September 27, 2010 - Baker, NV
Terry Marasco, Activist, Owner: Electrolux Cafe, Baker, NV
Terry, a life long environmentalist, served Westies chocolate cake and a dose of Western water politics at his fantastically funky Electrolux Café in Baker, NV. After moving to Baker in 2004, Terry immediately became embroiled in a water battle with Las Vegas’ South Nevada Water Authority. Las Vegas has proposed a 235 mile pipeline to pump 58 billion gallons of water a year from the second driest place in the country. There would be a myriad of ecological and social consequences of pumping water from the deep aquifer that was filled during the last glaciation and is not recharged. Few studies have been done to determine the effects of draining the lower aquifer, but evidence shows that the ground water is connected and springs and sub-irrigation would be dried up, turning the area into a toxic dust basin. Terry lambasted the political apathy of Republican politicians in both Utah and Nevada to defend rural communities. How, Terry constantly wonders can you justify killing rural areas for the growth of cities in the desert.
September 26, 2010 - Baker, NV
Dean Baker, Ranch Owner, Baker, NV
Dean Baker graced us with his presence at our campsite in Baker, Nevada. Dean is a prominent land owner and rancher in the Snake Valley. Mr. Baker has recently been working to fight the potential Las Vegas water grab, which would constitute a 300-mile pipeline from his valley to Las Vegas. Dean Baker has spearheaded this political fight by rallying the community and retaining his land, despite many attempts at a buyout. It was an honor to meet Dean and to learn about the work he is doing to save his community.
September 21, 2010 - Escalante, UT
Dennis Bramble, Professor Ameritus, University of Utah, Escalante, UT
Dennis Bramble started as a vet and then quickly found his passion in vertebrate morphology and taught at the University of Utah, only recently retiring. 17 years ago Dennis and his wife bought a beat up homestead in the attempt to start a long term restoration project. The property, South Hollow, is flourishing with healthy riparian areas and thriving harvester ant hills. He has generously offered his land as a base for our ecology studies and over the last few days we have become intimate with the natural history of the land, completed plant trisections, and documented ant hills. Dennis is a great enthusiast for the health of the land and the endless pursuit of knowledge: an inspirational figure for all of us.
September 19, 2010 - Escalante, UT
Mary O'Brien, Grand Canyon Trust, Castle Valley, UT
Mindy Wheeler, Grand Canyon Trust, Park City, UT
Mary and Mindy, from the Grand Canyon Trust, joined the Westies in Escalante, Utah for their second unit of ecology. In the first part, Westies learnt about the way Dennis Branble has managed his property, setting his land as an example in conservation and restoration in the area. Under Mary and Mindy's instructions, they conducted vegetation transects, Harvester ant mound surveys, and cow counts, collecting data that will be used to compare Dennis' land to the Forest Service Land's allotments surrounding his property. Ultimately, the data will be used to show successful restoration in partially grazed land(only during the fall). In the second part, the Westies worked in Fish Lake and Tasha Creek looking at beavers dams as part of restoration work, documenting Aspen's Pando Clone growth and setting up a fence to protect it from deer grazing. Overall, the Westies were encouraged by Mary to think about the links between science and politics, and economic profitability vs. ecological sustainability in public lands grazing.
September 17, 2010 - Owens Lake, CA
Mike Prather, California Auduban Society and Owens Valley Committee, Lone Pine, CA
The Westies spent a fantastic morning touring the Owens Valley with Mike Prather, an avid birder, active Audubon member, and founder of the Owens Lake Committee. Mike showed us the forty square miles of ponds and sheet irrigated land in the former hundred and ten acre Owens Lake bed. For decades the lake bed was almost completely dry, creating massive dust problems but as a result of various environmental regulations the LA department of water and power began diverting 20% of the water in the aqueduct to cover the dry lake bed and eliminate the dust hazard. Now as a result of the Dust Mitigation Project, the water in the valley provides habitat for a host of birds. We were treated to a morning of birding seeing Avocets, Baird Sand Pipers, Phalaropes and more. After lunch we explored the Alabama hills, and climbed the huge granite formations reenacting scenes from the many movies filmed in the area.
September 14, 2010 - Near Bodie, CA
Jeff Starosta, Rangeland Management Specialist, BLM, Bishop, CA
Casey Boyd, Natural Resource Specialist, BLM, Boshop, CA
Lilly Douglas, Wildlife Biologist, BLM, Bishop, CA
Outside of the mining ghost town of Bodie, CA, the Westies met with Jeff Starosta, Casey Boyd, and Lilly Douglas. Jeff studied Range Ecology at Colorado State University, and for the past 8 years has worked for the BLM Bishop Field Office as a Rangeland Management Specialist. Casey has worked for the BLM for the past year as a Natural Resource Specialist, after studying Rangeland Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Lilly recently graduated from Sacramento State and works as a wildlife biologist. Throughout the day, our guests shared with us the role of the BLM as land managers, and described a few ongoing projects, including the reintroduction of Bighorn Sheep to the eastern Sierras. The Westies also helped to construct a fence to keep cows out of Bodie Creek, a damaged riparian area.
September 13, 2010 - Mono Lake, CA
Rosa Brey, '08 Westie and Field Instructor, Mono Lake Committee, Lee Vining, CA
Bartshe Miller, Director of Education, Mono Lake Committee, Lee Vining, CA
To kick off a segment of water politics, Westies welcomed Bartshe Miller and Rosa Brey of the Mono Lake Committee. Students walked the shore of the massive Mono Lake (about twice the size of San Francisco!), and explored its tufa, unusual rock formations that occur as a result of the lake’s high percentage of carbonate minerals, and other unique species that call the harsh water home. Mono Lake has been a center for controversy since the city of Los Angeles began extracting water from the lake’s tributaries in the 1930s. As a result, the lake decreased immensely, altering the special ecosystem. Today, thanks to many litigation efforts, the lake is on the up swing of restoration. However, it is not completely back to normal. It was great to experience and appreciate such a unique ecosystem and a fabulous opportunity to introduce the importance of water in an arid climate.
September 12, 2010 - Near Reno, NV
Mike Branch, Professor of Liturature and Environment, University of Nevada, Reno
The Westies were lucky to spend time with Mike Branch, associate professor of Literature and the Environment at University of Nevada, Reno. Mike invited the Westies to camp on his lawn and treated them to a brisk walk in the desert hills around his house. We were joined by graduate students who spoke about their experiences in the environmental humanities program. Mike graciously read from his work, and shared his knowledge of the area’s native pronghorn antelope. It was a wonderful introduction to Nevada.
September 5, 2010 - Near Sumpter, OR
Will Falltrick, Senior Environmental-Humanties, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA
Will Faltrick, a current senior at Whitman College, joined the Westies in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Baker County, Oregon. Will spent the past summer doing field work with Suzanne Fouty as part of a Whitman-sponsored environmental internship. Will’s experience with stream ecology made him an valuable teacher for a field ecology segment of Semester in the West. Will lent his expertise the field, teaching students how to profile stream flow and monitor erosion changes. With his stellar guidance, Will quickly had eight students measuring the topography of stream beds and recording data for future restoration projects.
September 4, 2010 - Near Salt Creek Summit, OR
Wally Sykes, Joseph, OR
Wally, a Wallowa county wildlife activist, shared his perspectives on the Oregon wolf controversy. For a long time, Wally has had a passion for nature and the creatures who call it home. Upset by the ranching community's reaction to the wolves, he has dedicated himself to ensuring that the majestic Oregon wolf be allowed to prosper in the wilderness it once was lord of. Wally explained that he was enamored by the wolf, it's importance as a keystone species in an ecosystem, and it's right to reclaim the Oregon wilds. Students were impressed with Wally's passion for the wolf. He has dedicated his life to protecting them, and he has taken a position that, in agricultural Wallowa county, is not an easy one to take. We were grateful to Wally for spending time with us. After an interesting day of data collection, marking the start of our ecology unit, Wally pulled a box out of his car and offered every Westie a t-shirt that said 'The Imnaha Pack, Oregon's Wildest Family.'
September 4, 2010 - Near Sumpter, OR
Suzanne Fouty, USFS Hydrologist, Baker City, OR
Suzanne Fouty joined SITW on our final night in Wallowa County, OR and will be spending a full week with us in Baker County, OR. Suzanne is a hydrologist currently working for the United States Forest Service, and our week in Baker County is devoted to studying ecology with her. Through our ecology course we will learn about the interconnections between grazing and stream quality, specifically in heavily damaged riparian areas. Students are surveying streams, examining water flow quality, and photographing the current state of the area. This information will be compared to future data which will hopefully show improvements after student restoration efforts led by Suzanne.
September 3, 2010 - Joseph, OR
Julia Lakes, Wallowa Land Trust, Enterprise, OR
Jesse Abrams, Ph.D. Candidate in Forestry, OSU, Corvallis, OR
Jean Pekarek, Founder, Wallowa Land Trust, Enterprise, OR
At beautiful Wallowa Lake, we sat down with Jean, Julia, and Jesse from the Wallowa Land Trust to discuss current threats to private land and ways to address them. The WLT is a non-profit organization that works in concert with landowners to protect private lands including agricultural or ranch land, and historical Indian sites. Their tool of choice is the conservation easement, a type of contract which can indefinitely conserve land from activities including livestock grazing in delicate habitat, subdivision, and development. They raise money to buy these rights from the landowner, both helping sustain healthy landscapes and allowing small businesses to make the investments they need to be economically and ecologically sustainable. The “Three J’s” showed incredible passion and dedication to their work, and are making great progress in protecting Wallowa’s private land.
September 3, 2010 - Enterprise, OR
Diana Hunter, Barking Mad Farm Bed and Breakfast, Enterprise, OR
Through her bed and breakfast Diana Hunter has been instrumental in bringing people to Wallowa County. With the reintroduction of wolves to Idaho and consequentially Oregon, the area has been rapidly establishing a reputation as "wolf country," a notion that attracts a number of outdoor enthusiasts to these gorgeous mountains and inevitably invites change into this traditionally rural agricultural community. Diana shared with us her interest in growing eco-based tourism in Wallowa County and her commitment to finding ways to make that change positive and beneficial for the everyone that lives there.
September 3, 2010 - Enterprise, OR
Mike Hayward, Wallowa County Commissioner, Enterprise, OR
In our ongoing discussion on the presence of wolves in Wallowa County, we met with County Commissioner Mike Hayward on our last day in Enterprise, OR. Mike is a long-time resident, arriving in Wallowa County in 1976; this is his 14th year as County Commissioner. His job puts him in the challenging position of finding common ground between the stockgrowers, who worry the wolves will threaten their economic livelihood, and the environmentalists, who want wolves introduced into the surrounding ecosystem. He discussed the complexities of a wolf management plan and how it will affect the future of ranching in Wallowa County. It was a great opportunity to see the political process in action and the effect it has on the wolf reintroduction effort in Wallowa County.
September 2, 2010 - Enterprise, OR
David Schmidt, Integrated Biomass Industries inc., Enterprise, OR
Jessie Schmidt, Integrated Biomass Industries inc., Enterprise, OR
David and Jesssie Schmidt are co-owners of Integrated Biomass Industries in Wallowa, Oregon, a business that specializes in making value added products out of waste. They recognized the need to make products to fit the local market. In Wallowa County, this meant a product that could burn in wood stoves. Their solution was heat logs—densified fuel held together by heat and pressure. These heat logs are made from waste generated at the mill next door. Integrated Biomass Industries also creates pest free firewood and supplies the Enterprise school broiler with woodchips. They are also working closely with Wallowa County, Wallowa Resources, and Renewable Energy Solutions to create a combined heat and power facility that will burn waste into electricity and heat. David and Jessie are young business owners at the forefront of creative solutions to industry waste.
September 2, 2010 - Near Enterprise, OR
Vern Spaur, Wallowa County, OR
Vern Spaur, a mechanic from Wallowa, presented his microhydro project to us. He harnesses power from the west irrigation ditch of the Lostine River using a 110 year-old Pelton Water Wheel. He went through the entire legal process and permitting to have the project on his land and is currently going through the final stage of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting. His project is capable of generating 200 horse power and he uses the energy created to help run his machine shop. The initial motivation for this project came from his passion for antiques but since then he has also started to collect restaurant grease to burn in his trucks and to assist in heating the shop.
September 2, 2010 - Near Enterprise, OR
Al and Nellie Habegger, Wallowa County, OR
We met with Al and Nellie on their 150 acre forested property in the “North End” of Wallowa County, a few miles from the town of Flora. During our visit they shared with us the various manners in which they attempt live every aspect of their lives more consciously; from the hand built log cabin which they call home (constructed from logs harvested in their ponderosa pine forest), to the large vegetable garden and small photovoltaic array. We toured only a small section of their property, but were able to view also a gravity powered water pump and several small plots in which the couple have reintroduced native grass species.
September 2, 2010 - Near Enterprise, OR
Wynne Auld, Community Energy Solutions, Enterprise, OR
Wynne is an ’09 Whitman graduate and an ’08 alum of Semester in the West. An environmental studies and economics major, she now works for Renewable Energy Solutions (RES) out of Enterprise, OR. The mission of RES is reduce reliance on fossil fuels, both in Wallowa County and internationally, by providing viable alternatives such as solar, microhydro, and wind power in ways that boost local economies and foster strong community ties. Wynne spent the day with us visiting sites with solar panels on hay sheds and Pelton water wheels in irrigation ditches, innovative projects specially suited to the rural nature of Wallowa county and that begin the move towards energy security in this isolated corner of north-east Oregon.
September 1, 2010 - Near Enterprise, OR
Nils Christoffersen, Executive Director, Wallowa Resources, Enterprise, OR
Kyle Couch, Watershed Stewardship Program Officer, Wallowa Resources, Enterprise, OR
Nils Christoffersen and Kyle Couch joined us for a day of touring local forests and discussing the problems and opportunities they present for the community of Wallowa County. Wallowa Resources is an Enterprise, OR based organization that works to foster responsible stewardship for local forest resources, create jobs, and mediate between government, local and other organizations to foster a healthy community. Nils and Kyle spent the day leading us through a series of forest sites, both unmanaged and managed, and discussed with us the presence and importance of management in these forests. We learned about the increased importance (and rarity) of forestry jobs in the Wallowa County area after the loss of timber mills, and the way in which Wallowa Resources is working to help both the natural resources and the people of the area. To continue his tour of the area, Nils joined us the next day to show us a couple of renewable energy projects in the Wallowa area, including the Enterprise School Woody Biomass boiler. Nils is a dedicated and passionate advocate for responsible use of the land and with Wallowa Resources, is working hard to create a strong and resilient community.
August 31, 2010 - Near Imnaha, OR
Todd Nash, President, Wallowa Country Stockgrowers, Enterprise, OR
Dennis Sheehy, Cowbells and Compensation Plans, Enterprise, OR
Luke Morgan, Rangeland Manager, Enterprise, OR
Eric Porter, Stockgrower, Enterprise, OR
Cody Ross, Rangeland Manager, Enterprise, OR
Ken Gebhardt, District Ranger, Wallowa-Whitman Nat. Forest, Enterprise, OR
Shaun Mork, USFS Rangeland Management, Wallowa-Whitman Nat. Forest
After learning about wolf recovery in Oregon, the Westies welcomed five stock growers who run cattle in Wallowa County. Todd, Eric and Luke spoke about the difficulties they’ve encountered with having wolves in Oregon, while Dennis talked about efforts to reach a compromise which will allow ranchers to coexist with wolves. Over lunch, the stock growers also answered more general questions about the ins and outs of running cattle (getting up at 4:30am seven days a week is typical). It was a great opportunity to confront the prejudices many Westies felt they had about wolves and ranching on public lands.
August 30, 2010 - Near Imnaha, OR
Holly Akenson, Director, Wallowa Mountain Institute, Enterprise, OR
Roblyn Brown, Assistant Wolf Biologist, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Enterprise, OR
For our first introduction to wildlife in eastern Oregon, Holly Akenson spent a few days with us facilitating our jaunts around the county. As the director of the Wallowa Mountain Institute, Holly shared stories about grey wolves, explained the alpine habitat of the pika and the white bark pine, and showed the importance of our changing climate in the regional ecosystems. Along with the ODFW Assistant Wolf Biologist Roblyn Brown, we gained insight into challenges – physical, ecological, and social alike – of reintroducing the grey wolf into Oregon. They sparked in us an interest in not only the historical importance of the wolf, but also the current role that it plays in Wallowa’s mountainous environment.
August 30, 2010- Near Imnaha, OR
Geneva "Jenny" Reinheardt, US Forest Service, Enterprise, OR
Mike Henneman, US, Forest Service, Enterprise, OR
We joined Jenny Reinheardt on a partly cloudy morning in the heart of the Wallowa foothills. Her career over the last thirty years has revolved around fire, starting with work on a hotshot firefighting crew in the early 1980s. Since then, she has moved her focus towards effectively using fire as a tool to restore a forested area to a more natural state. Within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, this work has meant clearing of younger more shade tolerant trees (such as the Grand Fir), allowing more favorable species (the Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine, and the Doug Fir) to move in. It was truly incredible to see the actual science of forestry and fire-ecology put together with such tangible results.
August 29, 2008 - Near Imnaha, OR
Brian Kelly, Resotration Coordinator, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, La Grande, OR
Brian Kelly was SITW 2010's first guest. Brian treated the Westies to a crash course in local tree identification, fire ecology, and a hike to a recovering wildfire site. Brian (and his dog Django) accompanied the Westies back to their camp in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area for dinner and musical entertainment. It was an exciting first (rainy!) adventure for the 2010 program.