Monday, December 29, 2008
Photo: Swans in winter, taken by Sam Stronach near the Hemingway Monument
Most people visit Silver Creek Preserve during the summer to fish, hike, bird, or just look around. Not too many people think about coming during the winter months but winter is actually a great time to visit the Preserve. The visitor center is closed but the Preserve is open to snowshoeing, skiing, birding, and on some days, waterfowl hunting (please sign in at the visitor center prior to entering the Preserve and check the posted rules).
Often it is possible to have the Preserve completely to yourself—a quiet and beautiful retreat. This winter, several rare birds (for this area) have already been seen. Harris Sparrows, White throated sparrows, and a Mockingbird were sited in November and December. I find ‘the regulars’ just as exciting and these include Western Harriers, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, waterfowl of all kinds, Tundra and Trumpeter swans, to name a few. You may also see moose, elk, coyotes, deer, fox, bobcat, otter, mink, and other critters. One of my favorite activities is to grab a cup of hot chocolate and hang out on the deck of the visitor center and just look. Or, better yet, take a long ski around the Preserve and end it with a hot drink on the deck.
Please call for private tours, 788-7910 or 208-720-5465. Hope to see you this winter!
Dayna and the Silver Creek staff.
Friday, December 19, 2008
With much of the Idaho Panhandle receiving 34 inches of snow in 34 hours, summer vacation there seems a long, long way away.
But this just-released video celebrates North Idaho in the summer, specifically The Nature Conservancy's Ball Creek Ranch Preserve.
Jeff Wilson, of HGTV's Regular Guy series, visited the preserve last July as part of his Green Family Summer. His recently released set of videos include ideas for summer vacations around the west, including Nature Conservancy preserves. Wilson recommends Ball Creek as an off-the-beaten path destination great for wildlife and beautiful scenery.
But you may want to wait a few months before visiting.--Matt Miller
Monday, December 15, 2008
Take away large predators from a landscape, and the whole ecosystem collapses. That's the intriguing premise of Where the Wild Things Were, by former Nature Conservancy magazine writer William Stolzenburg. In this well written book, Stolzenburg shows a growing mound of research that demonstrates the disastrous impacts on all species when large predators are removed--and how quickly whole ecosystems can recover when predators are restored. This is not a dry collection of research statistics--it's full of stories of otter-eating orcas, elk without fear, raccoons gone wild, anti-social howler monkeys and more. If you read one nature book this year, make it this one.
Friday, December 12, 2008
A few weeks ago, I walked up a trail in the Kootenai Valley of northern Idaho, looking for deer. In the mud and snow patches, I saw all the creatures that had also passed this way: deer, elk, moose, grizzly, pine squirrel, turkey, grouse. I wasn't on public land, but rather a privately owned forest.
Increasingly, conservationists realize that these private forests are critically important to a wide variety of wildlife species. It helps, of course, if they're managed sustainably. The Forest Stewardship Council is a third-party certification to ensure that private forests are managed in a way that benefits wildlife, clean water and local communities. FSC is the most rigorous sustainable forest certification, and is endorsed by a wide range of organizations, including The Nature Conservancy.
It's a worldwide program, so it also ensures that your wood product purchase isn't from wood illegally cut in Borneo (as much as 25% of all hard lumber and plywood on the market today is from wood illegally harvested or unsustainably managed). When you buy FSC-certified products, you're helping grizzlies and orangutans, and communities in the Rocky Mountains and Indonesia.
It can admittedly be a challenge, though, finding FSC-certified products. That's why The Nature Conservancy's on-line FSC gift guide is such a handy reference: There are lots of cool wooden products to buy, all guaranteed to be from sustainably harvested forests. The guide tells you what's available and where to buy them.
There' s a diversity of items, like the Natural Pod toy chef kitchen (pictured above). Natural Pod has a variety of home toys--all wood--that receive rave reviews on-line. There are also other toys from Toys R Us, earrings, ornaments and many other items.
We need wood products, and we need well-managed forests. Buying FSC-certified products is a great way to support those forests, and the wildlife and communities that depend on them. --Matt Miller
Monday, December 08, 2008
Each dollar donated to the Plant A Billion Trees Campaign plants a tree in Brazil. Consider planting one--or a whole patch--for your friends this season.
Forests, of course, provide so many benefits to us: They store enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, stabilizing climate change. They reduce erosion, keeping water clean. And they provide habitat for a multitude of creatures.
Few forests are in such trouble as Brazil's Atlantic Forest. There are some protected tracts, like the forest around Iguassu Falls (above). But only 7% of this forest remains, mainly in isolated patches.
This forest may not be as well known as the Amazon, but it's still one of the most important places on earth for wildlife. Many of the remaining forest tracts are located near Brazil's famous coastline, providing a beautiful backdrop.
More of this forest can be restored, and every dollar helps.
With a goal of having all the trees planted by 2015, the reforestation effort will remove 10 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year (the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road). It will provide 70,000 new jobs. It will reduce erosion, providing cleaner water for nearly 120 million people. And it will provide homes for a whole host of creatures (including coatis, pictured below).
How many times can you give a dollar and benefit millions of people, create jobs, reduce the impacts of climate change and lend wildlife a helping hand? Buy a tree this holiday season, and help restore another special place for people and nature. --Matt Miller
Thursday, December 04, 2008
You can help cotton-top tamarins, also known as titi monkeys, by purchasing a mochila bag on-line from Proyecto Titi, a Nature Conservancy partner dedicated to conserving cotton-top tamarins.
Two problems plague the tropical dry forest of Colombia. Communities surrounding the tropical dry forest face high unemployment, so to survive they often extract from the forest: they cut trees, poach wildlife for food and collect the endangered monkeys to sell to the black-market biomedical industry.
The other problem is a lack of refuse collection, leading to an astounding number of plastic bags in the countryside. The solution: Mochilas for monkeys.
First, a local community collects clean plastic bags, which are then cut into strips by women (and one man) in the village.