Monday, February 28, 2011

Silver Creek Summer Fun & More

For 35 years, Silver Creek Preserve has been a conservation success that has only been possible by the support of landowners, guides and outfitters, anglers, birders, community members, our donors and individuals like you.

Join us for a summer-long celebration of the preserve's anniversary, from nature walks to canoe floats to barbecues. Full schedule of summer activities.

And mark your calendars for a special Silver Creek celebration gala at Heart Rock Ranch (formerly Diamond Dragon Ranch) south of Bellevue, on Thursday, June 30. Call Sara Sheehy at 208-788-8988 for details.

Silver Creek Enhancement Plan

The Silver Creek enhancement plan has been completed and is available for review. The plan may be checked out at The Nature Conservancy’s Hailey Office on 116 First Avenue North in Hailey or at the Silver Creek Preserve office. You may also phone the Silver Creek office at 208-788-7910. Or you can download the full plan on-line.

In a prioritized format, the plan highlights places and actions where restoration activities can achieve the most for conservation. It was completed by Ecosystem Sciences in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. Ecosystem Sciences held public meetings and met with many landowners to gather input through the twelve months they were developing the plan.

“The plan offers a comprehensive view of opportunities for conservation throughout the Silver Creek basin,” says Dayna Gross, Silver Creek Preserve manager. “The strategies for implementing the plan may vary from landowner to landowner but the general concepts are applicable on all reaches of the creek. I think of it as a living document--- one that will change over time as we learn more and begin to implement some of the recommendations. We look forward to discussing the ideas and next steps with all those who care about this watershed."

A lot was learned from reviewing years of research and monitoring information, as well as gathering insights from landowners and other community members. The plan identified sediment inputs via overland flow and increasing water temperatures as the top stressors to the creek. Further protection and enhancement of the tributary streams is recommended to address these stressors through increased shading and sediment filtering.

This spring, the Conservancy, working with landowners, will begin to implement some key projects identified in the plan, including:
• Improving the riparian vegetation buffer width and quality on Stalker and Patton creeks.

• Stabilizing sediments and increasing shading and habitat in Kilpatrick pond by building islands.

• Addressing many of the data gaps identified by the plan including nutrient monitoring, field verification of mapping, and spring source protection options.

A list of funding opportunities and a time line is available for landowners who are interested in investing in an enhancement project on their properties and would like to find matching funding sources.

For more information, phone Dayna Gross at the Silver Creek Preserve office at (208) 788-7910.

Silver Creek in the Statesman
Finally, Silver Creek Preserve was featured in a story by Natalie Bartley in today's Idaho Statesman. Silver Creek remains a popular story topic in Idaho and beyond. It's a special place for people and nature.

We hope you can visit the preserve this year to celebrate its 35th anniversary. We'll be saving a place for you!

Canoeing photo by Giuseppe Saitta.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guanaco Country

It was a busy first week of work at the Conservancy office in Bariloche, Argentina, capped by a trip to the field last Friday. Gustavo Iglesias, TNC’s Director of Protected Areas -- think National Parks -- led a training for office staff in the use of global positioning systems (GPS). That's Gustavo and my colleagues Melissa, Annika, and Valeria (L to R) outside the Bariloche TNC office in the photo to the right.

Our journey east of Bariloche took us past Estancia Fortin Chacabuco, a 12,000 acre ranch owned by Conservancy partners, to a place called Valle Encantado.

On the way, I got my first chance to see guanacos in the wild, and apparently, these guys were unusually curious. As we slowed the Conservancy truck to get a better look at the trio browsing the roadside grasslands, one of them approached us to within about 25 feet.
Guanacos are a major conservation target for the Conservancy’s work in Patagonia. These camel-related creatures once roamed the steppes and grasslands of South America in Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina and numbered more than seven million. After the arrival of Europeans, guanaco populations dropped dramatically due to over-hunting and competition from livestock. Now 95% of the remaining half million wild guanacos live in Argentine Patagonia. By promoting sustainable grazing practices, the Conservancy and its partners hope to maintain the guanaco’s stronghold in Patagonia.

Saludos, Bas Hargrove

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tweet, Tweet

On this wintery (at least in Boise) Thursday, we have some bird and birding-related links for you to enjoy.

But first, a different kind of tweeting: The Nature Conservancy in Idaho is now on Twitter. Follow us at @Nature_ID.

If you are social media user, please follow us, retweet links and share with friends. Join us for regular conservation news and links, green tips, wildlife factoids and more. It's a great way to get the word out on conservation and green living to younger audiences.

It's another way for you to stay connected to the Conservancy's work in Idaho.

Now, for some bird links:

Protecting sage grouse - Sage grouse will soon be strutting on their leks around southern Idaho. But these birds have been in a long-term decline. Do collaborative projects with landowners offer the best hope. This New York Times piece offers an interesting look at sage grouse programs and the hope they offer for the birds.

Great Backyard Bird Count - You only need fifteen minutes to count. The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend (February 18-21). Count the birds you see and record them on-line. The count has a goal of 100,000 lists this year--offering a great look at bird population trends across the country.

For more information on such citizen-science programs, my latest column for Down to Earth Northwest takes a look at "counting for conservation."

California condors lay their first egg of the year at Boise's World Center for Birds of Prey, run by the Peregrine Fund.

Cecil D. Andrus Wildlife Management Area - The Idaho Statesman's Pete Zimowsky has a feature today that covers wildlife watching at the WMA and Hells Canyon area. Large concentrations of bald eagles are apparently quite common at this time of year.

New to birding? Natalie Bartley's recent Statesman column offers local groups that can get you started, as well as excellent places to visit.

It's a great time of year for birders and bird enthusiasts in Idaho. Last evening at dusk, I saw four great horned owls along a short stretch of the Greenbelt. They're really hooting at this time of year. Over the weekend, a large flock of Bohemian waxwings was active in the Barber Pool Conservation Area, and a varied thrush was hanging around my backyard.

Waterfowl species are on the move, and you can see huge flocks on the Snake River and any other open water. Tundra swans are passing through many parts of the state. Raptors are beginning to become very visible along the Snake River canyon. In short, it's the perfect time to grab your binoculars and enjoy Idaho's natural wonders.--Matt Miller

Monday, February 14, 2011

Condor Conservation

I’ve seen three Andean condors in my life: two in the Boise zoo and now one of a pair in the Buenos Aires zoo. (I’m not sure where the condor’s mate was that day.) They’re not the prettiest birds in the world, but they’re among the grandest. With a wing-span topping ten feet and weighing up to twenty-five pounds, the Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world.

Andean condor population numbers are higher than their California cousins, though they are declining. Conservationists at the Buenos Aires Zoo are partnering with Fundacion BioAndina on a captive breeding program to help rebuild wild populations. Although the condors are doing fairly well in the southern part of the range in Argentina and Chile, many parts of the historic range in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Columbia have been depleted.

Andean condors feed on carrion, spotting carcasses from above while soaring on updrafts in the cordillera. One of the major threats stems from the misconception that condors are hunters. Although revered by some people, others kill the huge birds, afraid that they will prey on livestock. In addition to augmenting wild populations of the condors, the conservation partners are working to dispel myths about condor predation. If I’m lucky, I may see one of these giants of the sky during my stay in Patagonia.
--Bas Hargrove

Friday, February 11, 2011

Urban Ecology

Walking through the Parque 3 de Febrero in Buenos Aires, I came upon an old acquaintance. There it was, by the side of the path in a hardscrabble patch of dirt. The scourge of cyclists everywhere. Puncturevine.
I can't count all the flats I've changed due to this invasive species. Puncturevine, or the 'goathead' plant, is on the Idaho noxious weed list that categorizes 64 different harmful, non-native species. Invasive species are one of the greatest threats worldwide to The Nature Conservancy's mission of protecting biodiversity.
As a native of the Old World, it's also an invader in Argentina. Fortunately, puncturevine is not a big threat to our conservation targets in Idaho or Argentina. All the same, this was a surprise encounter I could've done without.
-- Bas Hargrove

Monday, February 07, 2011

Review: An Entirely Synthetic Fish

On Saturday, I hiked up into a rocky gorge with my fly rod, casting in every deep pool I could reach. As with many difficult-to-access streams, the trout were small but hit my attractor flies ferociously--a perfect way to spend a sunny February day.

The trout were obviously rainbows but looked unlike any I had caught previously: They were dark--almost black--with a bright orange-tipped dorsal fin. Beautiful fish. But what were they? Native trout adapted to the volcanic streambed? Hatchery fish stock from afar? Hybrids?

The answer is not easily found, in large part due to reasons described in Anders Halverson's An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World.

Halverson documents the global spread of a beautiful wild fish once confined to waters of the American West. It's an amazing and sometimes exasperating story: People believed the best way to improve "rivers" was by stocking them with "better" species like rainbow trout, giving rise to a massive hatchery system that continues to produce trout by the millions to this day.

For years, the stocking of non-native fish was viewed as sound conservation practice--a way to sustain fishing while rivers underwent dramatic changes. Even John Muir supported trout stocking in Sierra Nevada lakes.

Adding to fishery dilemmas was our nation's surprisingly complicated attitudes towards fishing. Early Puritans considered it an idle activity that led to sin and damnation, but later politicians viewed it as a "manly" activity that could keep urban citizens from growing too soft.

Factors like these led to enthusiastic, and "science based" fish stocking, often at the expense of native species. Halverson's most dramatic example was the mass poisoning of all native fish in the upper Green River to make way for an introduction of trout. At the time, this was considered scientifically defensible.

And that, perhaps, suggests the real issue here: that conservation is so often about values more than science, a point Halverson's book makes repeatedly. Even today, the push to remove non-natives and restore native trout rests on a value for native ecosystems more than scientific necessity.

Writes Halverson: "I do believe, though, that those who promote the conservation and restoration of native species should do so with a good understanding of history and a concomitant sense of humility. People have been a part of this world for a long time. There's no going back to the way it was, even if it were possible to define it. Reading through the letters and public pronouncements of the men who were most responsible for spreading nonnative species like rainbow trout throughout the world in the nineteenth century, I have been struck by the similarity of the rhetoric of those who promote native species restoration today. They, too, were sure they were doing the right thing for the world."

Yes. That's it exactly. One hopes that, indeed, humility and conservation history could help inform our many pressing conservation issues today. Halverson's book shows that many societal factors have always informed our values about the natural world--a fact that continues to influence conservation to this day. --Matt Miller