May, 2010

Remote watersheds, we love them to death!

I love to Kayak in remote areas. I don’t love to bring invasive species along for the ride…

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

“Weekend getaways”

One of the great joys in this world is finding a secluded place, somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. For thousands of us around the world (myself included) we find that feeling of serenity on water via Kayak or Canoe paddling along some beautiful destination without a care in the world. This gives us great and wholesome wild moments of being in a remote watershed where we can find peace and solitude. Why this certainly does represent a great way to commune with nature as well as take in a deep breath, it also is something that can create very serious problems for those very same watersheds we come to enjoy.

“Did I do that?”

Without careful forethought, these weekend trips are the direct cause of transplantation of non-native “invasive” species like Millfoil and Zebra mussels (Search online for more information on these invasive species) to name a few. This happens without our knowledge as they can simply hitch a ride on our boats and equipment and it happens all the time. The problem comes when these species arrive in a new habitat and have no natural predators. They often out compete the native species and put some of our precious plants and fish species directly in harms way.

“Love hurts”

For so many that love of a remote destination turns from a weekend adventure to a quest to purchase land and build a home, often we do this right on a lake where we can simply create our own private dock- hey no need for that long drive to the country. In time these lakes become completely enclosed by private land ownership and important plant and tree species are removed to make way for lawns. Wildlife that could formally access the vital habitat of the watershed, is now threatened by the same people who came up to enjoy being with the wildlife in the first place. Ironic when you think about it. Satellite images are a great way to look at urban sprawl from a “big picture” point of view .In fact, when you look at remote areas this way, it’s very easy to notice the ring of homes often completely surrounding a body of water.

“Solutions”

Yes, there are solutions. It’s all about the same thing, “caring” for that remote watershed but in this case we need to employ a little wisdom and care enough to start thinking about the long term health of the watershed. It’s simple really! Inspect your boating equipment and remove “any” plant material. Look for snails and mussels along the hull and motor if you have one and then do the same “every” time the boat is coming out of the water, and “before” it goes back in. This simple step could very well help protect the same remote watershed that you love to visit in the first place. Instead of clearing land around a lake to build a summer home, perhaps thinking of another solution to your getaway needs might be better. If you want to actually live their, consider the idea of looking for a home near but not actually on the water. Instead of clearing forest land right at the watershed and building a brand new home, consider renovating an existing one nearby. In the end of the day you still end up with what you were after however there was no further impact to that remote area, little steps really do make a world of difference!

Mark Fraser

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Wildlife is a community we are a part of

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Just coming back from an incredible  springtime filming trip in the Rockies and all I can say is that I was truly humbled by the beauty of the region! From Cody Wyoming and greater Yellowstone to wild points further north and even meeting wonderful new  friends at the 33rd annual International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula Montana!  I was stunned by the incredible diversity of wildlife in many areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. Usually when I travel to a region it takes a bit to start picking out the different wildlife species as they can sometimes be hard to find. However I found that Grizzly and Black Bear were amazingly abundant and Bison, Elk, Mule Deer and Big Horn Sheep were all doing well. Filming such amazing species makes one realize that we really are just another member of the “community” of life in this planet. I wish I could say that everywhere was doing as well but as we all know having healthy wild habitat is becoming rarer every single day. Places like the Rockies have an advantage in that the region has mountains connecting multiple national parks, forests preserves at the state and federal level and eventually to Canada a literal “mother-ship” of wildlife. There are however many smaller habitats in different parts of the country and abroad that thanks to our populations explosion, have become surrounded like an “island”. When metropolitan development circles a forested or wetland area, many of the species that live there are in peril due to the inability to breed with others of there kind therefore decreasing the genetic biodiversity. It’s up to us to plan ahead and pay close attention to developers so that we can ensure areas set aside for wildlife are aloud to exist and prosper. Our future can “only” consist of a world where humans learn to co-exist with the natural world. It’s something that we should not only accept, but embrace and quickly. Employing wisdom in how we grow our cities and suburbs only requires some simple forethought. Connecting forested and wetland areas, with “green-highways” are key towards allowing wildlife to flourish alongside our own populations. This isn’t something that can happen on its own it actually requires getting involved with your own community. There is no one out there in a better position then ourselves, to stand up and be active in the decision making process within the communities where we live. A simple call to your local town office or environmental agency can help you find out how to help, albeit volunteer and or attend occasional town meetings. It’s very much worth your time and you very much can make a positive difference in your community!

Mark Fraser

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Make it count!

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

Let’s face it, life is really short. Regardless of who we are or where we come from we have a brief chance to make the best of our own lives. Appreciating every simple pleasure from a sunrise to a passing bird is the secret sauce to life. We are remembered by our kids and those in which we have made an impression on during our lives. The bigger the impression the longer we are remembered and eventually in time, like a long lost flake of snow belonging to a previous winter we melt away in time returning to the place in which we all came from. What kind of story will they tell about your life, how will you be remembered? How long will that memory of your life last? One generation, perhaps four generations, and then what? How far back in your own family can you remember or know the story of those who came before we did. Paying attention to the elderly is one of the best ways to gain insight and wisdom during our lives but how many of us do. They have so much to teach us and remember they have been through far more “life” then we have. Learning from their experiences helps us navigate in our own lives and knowing the stories that they remember carries the torch of the lessons of so long ago. To many first nations of North America, it’s said that people should try to leave the world better then you found it for the next 7 generations. What a thought, being stewards of the land in such a way that world is protected for so very long after we are gone. There is a lot of wisdom in that. *Making our lives count* and leaving the world better then we find it.

I have to wonder if any of us are really doing that in today’s world.  I myself have a smart phone attached to my hip. What happens when it no longer works and I must dispose of it, where do those hazardous chemicals go? There are so many examples of that in our lives it boggles the mind. Simple innocent ways in which we live our modern life that can unknowingly lead to long term environmental impacts. We have a long, long way to go!

There is good news: you see nature has been around for a very long time. We are the new kids on the block and in the end we are the ones who will live with the choices that we make as a society and as a species.

I very much believe in “hope” itself and I believe deep down we all know that we need to be better stewards of the land. It’s the “what can I do” mentality that makes some of us feel overwhelmed or that there isn’t hope. The truth is you can do plenty! In today’s world information is nothing more then a quick search online. Educate yourself to the simple steps that can be made in your own life to help. Conservation really does start with “you”. Think about that, if we each ensure our own homes make sound decisions then collectively we correct the big picture. That’s what they mean when they say “Think global act local”. Get to know and appreciate the natural world in your own backyard as much as you can because that “is” the world we are trying to protect. In time we will all be a little greener and a lot happier.

Mark Fraser

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Getting to know the world we share

Mark Fraser is the host and executive producer of "Nature Walks with Mark Fraser"

The art of exploration isn’t gone as a matter of fact, it’s alive and well. The trick is simply being curious then satisfying the feeling. Never let anyone tell you any different! There is so much to explore and learn about in the natural world that most people don’t even realize it. Here is an interesting test, the next time you walk through or even near a meadow, see if you can name all the plants you find- good luck.  Is that too tough, try just the wild flowers or perhaps stick with Trees. You will soon realize that there are so many species of life on the planet we share it is completely unimaginable. Did you know that no person on planet Earth can name all the species? Think about that, no PHD from any science could even come remotely close- It is literally impossible. Sure you could learn the Mammals of your own hometown, in most areas it’s a small number probably in the 50s or so and maybe even the native fish well at least maybe the inland freshwater species. Birds are tougher but insects… Just trying to do that in your own home region, is next to impossible. Getting to know the myriad of species is the secret sauce to life. You see when we know what lives all around us suddenly the world opens up and we realize we are sharing this world with so many others. Some of the complex systems of life are like miniature version of a little universe. Look at the Milkweed plant. On that one single type of plant there are Large Milkweed Bugs, Small milkweed bugs (two different species) there are Milkweed Aphids, Long horned Milkweed Beetles, Monarch Larva, Swamp Milkweed beetle and the list goes on. There is different species of Milkweed plants themselves. The complexity is stunning. Even Beavers have parasites that have evolved to live only on them!

So that’s just it, there is plenty to explore. Getting to know the natural world is the best way to begin to protect the wild species that live here. How do we know a species is in trouble, unless we take the time to admire and appreciate their world, our world?  It’s really easy and all starts with a hike or a swim and simply paying attention. When you find a species try to identify it. Learn about its call, its habitat and food source. The more you learn about them the more enlightened you will feel. You can start to memorize bird calls for example. With practice, as you listen to the birds singing you’ll find in time you can suddenly name species that you can’t even see.

It’s a long deep breath of fresh air when you look at the forest with open eyes & mind. Teaching ourselves to reconnect to the natural world brings about wonderful things. Perhaps in time, we can again learn to be stewards of the land, instead of just exploiting it…

Mark Fraser

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