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An interesting article in the Brattleboro Reformer last week highlighted some of issues surrounding a state management plan for the Pisgah State Park in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire.

The park is the largest of the New Hampshire state parks, over 35,000 acres of nearly untouched forest. I’ve hiked, cross-country ski’d, and snowshoed there on several occasions. Local volunteer groups help maintain the trails. They raised money to build a visitor center, and they run programs there.

Under the proposed plan, the visitor center would be closed to the public, and turned into a ranger station for a seasonal ranger. Parts of it would opened to mountain biking and ATVs.

I think this would permanently alter the landscape of the park. The quiet trails would be transformed into thoroughfares. Even if only certain areas are designated for these uses, what safeguards would there be that these people would respect those boundaries? There are plenty of examples of the careless destruction they cause in the search for a good time. The beauty of the landscape, the enjoyment of the forest mean nothing to them.

There is a public comment period – until Aug. 5. Read the Reformer article, and make your opinions known.

The address is the following: Pisgah State Park Management Plan, to director, N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, P.O. Box 1856, Concord, N.H. 03302-1856, or e-mail comments to pisgah1@dred.state.nh.us.

Friends of Pisgah will also host a story circle on Tuesday, Aug. 3, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Hinsdale Community Center for locals to share their memories and hopes about the park’s future.

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I have a small plexiglass platform feeder attached to my kitchen window that I keep stocked with a good all-purpose mix of seeds. It attracts a nice variety of backyard birds.

Late this afternoon two “Chippies” – an adult and a juvenile – came to the feeder. The juvenile looked very recently fledged, and this may well have been its first visit to a feeder. It looked over the pile of seeds, and it seemd as if it didn’t know quite what to do. The adult had been feeding steadily until it noticed the juvenile’s dilemma.

She (let’s assume it’s the mother, I couldn’t tell) hopped over and began picking up and passing seeds to her offspring (another assumption!) then eventually hopped away to continue feeding on her own.

The young one had quickly picked up on whatever message was sent, because it started to do its own hunting and pecking through the supply of seeds.

I’ve been watching birds at the feeder for many years, but I’ve never been lucky enough to observe this behavior.
I’ve seen parents feeding baby birds in the nest, of course, but never outside of it.

I did once see a row of cedar waxwings perched on the branch of a berry bush, and pass berries down the line to each other. That was the only cooperative behavior I can remember observing.

It wasn’t a big deal.

A wild turkey skittered across the road in front of me the other morning, something that happens with some frequency around here. Every once in a while – usually on a slow news day – we all get treated with the antics of a wild turkey somewhere near Boston.

As commonplace as their presence has become, a remarkable story underlies it.

Wild turkeys, a staple food of the Pilgrims, had become extinct in Massachusetts and Vermont. In the late 1970s, wildlife officials trapped some in neighboring New York state and shipped about 40 to each of the two states.

They were raised and then released, and as a result, they’re all over the place.

Both states still monitor the populations, and the numbers now are in the tens of thousands, a heartening story of restoration.

The White River Partnership in Vermont is holding a unique event on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph.

Called a landscape auction, bidders will bid on things like keeping public access to the Pinch Rock part of the White River (minimum bid is $10,000). They can also bid on the cost of keeping cows out of the river, maintaining a rooster for a year, trail maintenance.

Bidders aren’t buying the objects, but they are helping to defray the “invisible” costs that local landowners bear.

There are some other things to bid on – a day monitoring rare plants in the Green Mountain National Forest, things like that.
It’s been tried in Europe with some success. A funeral home bid and is paying for the cost of maintaining an ancient burial mound, for example.

There’s more information at the organization’s website whiteriverpartnership.org.

A few things have caught my attention recently that I think worthy of comment.

It’s illegal to keep beehives in New York City. Meanwhile, urban beekeeping is gaining in popularity in Japan, Europe, and elsewhere. Go figure.

Backyard farming is catching on. I think this is a step up from the backyard garden like the one that I have … a few tomato plants, some beans, some lettuce, beets, etc. Not only are people growing food for themselves, but they’re selling the surplus at farmers markets, by the roadside. It’s wonderful.

In Kansas City, this can be a problem. If, for instance, you grow a bunch of food say on a vacant lot or in a community garden, you can’t sell it. Apparently there’s an ordinance against selling food that was grown on land you don’t own.
If you own the land, then you can sell the produce, but you can’t hire someone to help you. Then it would no longer be a home business.

Then there’s the matter of chickens.

Providence, Rhode Island, is struggling with ordinances concerning backyard chickens. Should they be allowed? How many? Once again, the fuss budgets at City Hall want to know how many chickens per square foot they should allow. They’re worried about diseases. Neighbors worry about the noise and smell. These things come up a lot.

Of course, they allow KFC, chicken McNuggets, eggo waffles,… all sorts of heinous “chicken” byproducts – but heaven forbid they should have a real live chicken anywhere near them.

Another tale from the dark side of the human psyche – vandals who go into protected areas and destroy piping plover nests and steal their eggs.

Piping plovers are endangered, or at least threatened. The numbers of nesting pairs along the east coast are alarmingly low.
The main problem is that they nest on beaches at just the same time that human activity ramps up. It’s not a good mix.

So, wildlife officials and conservationists have put into place protections – fencing off nests to protect them, and closing beaches until the young are hatched a fledged.

Some people don’t like it. The idea that they can’t go to a certain stretch of beach just because some bird is nesting there doesn’t register with them. Some people in Plymouth think the bird should just be moved so they can tear around in their ATVs.

At least they’ve confined their protests to web postings and hearings. In some places, people have apparently taken matters into their own hands.

This spring, there were two piping plover nets at Hampton Beach, NH. That part was closed off, a fence put around it. Just as soon as the protections went up, someone went in, wrecked the fence and stole the eggs.

A similar event happened at a beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

But there is good news, at least in New England, the numbers of piping plovers seems to be growing, vandals be damned.

At first I didn’t know what was happening. Last summer, my tomato plants started out okay, not great, but the weather was cold and then there was all that rain. Still, tomatoes formed, and even if it wasn’t going to be a great crop, it would be a good one.

Or so I thought.

I was gone for nearly three weeks, a neighbor keeping an eye on things and watering as needed. When I got back, the tomatoes looked like they were just rotting on the vine, all scarred up.

That’s when I learned about tomato blight. It was affecting everybody.

So far so good this year in my garden. I’ve got a real bumper crop coming. But now the news is that the blight is back. I haven’t seen the signs yet. But this is just the time it set in last year.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Once again, concerns about the environment and climate change have been put on hold. All the usual excuses are given. It’s an election year. The votes aren’t there. Try again some other time.

All those are true enough, but the real culprit is the will is simply not there, among the people who count. The people who make the decisions.

Until the country’s – and the world’s – decision makers become genuinely concerned about the environment, until they recognize the importance of these issues, nothing will happen.

Industry, big business, special interests have all successfully managed to marginalize the environmental voice. The steady drumbeat warning of higher taxes, lost jobs, etc., have turned the calls for action into a squeak.

Even as they tally up the toll from the BP oil spill, there’s talk about approving drilling in the Arctic. Mountaintop mining has not yet been taken off the table, hydraulic fracturing to get at shale oil goes on practically unabated.

What can we do? Demand that our candidates spell out their attitudes towards these issues , in the same way other demand to know how they stand on abortion, gun control. Don’t let them off the hook. And don’t let the media off the hook. Demand that they do their jobs, that they ask the hard questions, and explain the issues.

Let’s start out by saying that all state budgets are suffering, and painful cuts have to be made, a decision no one likes to make. But Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas has taken an unusual step, reaching out and cutting one particular position, despite the express wishes of the legislature.

While the lawmakers are miffed from a political perspective – they’re the ones who passed the budget, and preserved certain positions in the Agency for Natural Resources. They object to the governor picking and choosing his cuts.

Communities and conservation groups are up-in-arms because this position has proven to be a big help in identifying and protecting environmentally important pieces of land. This particular wildlife biologist position gives these groups the technical expertise to help communities and groups decide what properties are appropriate for development, what kind of development, and what should be protected.

It’s the kind of expertise most communities, especially small rural towns, cannot afford on their own.

There are those who don’t like people like that getting in the way of their plans. Apparently, these are the people Gov. Douglas listens to.

Making this all the more suspicious, the position is funded primarily through a combination of a federal grant, as well as various permitting fees, so the savings to the general state budget is negligible

A legislative panel to look into the problems at Vermont Yankee has spent several weeks studying the situation and concluded what is already alarmingly obvious to even the most casual observer. Things have to change.

Did these people get paid for this?

Here we have a nuclear power plant that has experienced one problem after another.

Plant officials who lied under oath to cover up the source of a radioactive leak.

A company that (a la BP) put more effort into a public relations campaign than finding and stopping the leak.

An owner that tried to spin off this plant and others with problems into a subsidiary company – suspiciously like a plan to declare bankruptcy and get out from under any cleanup costs.

This panel concluded a “change in corporate culture” is what’s needed…. Where do they get these people?

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RSS The Ecocryptic

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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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