Posts Tagged ‘Habitat’

Federal Budget Cuts and the Environment

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

When thinking about something’s “value” we often get confused by just exactly what that means. Seeing value in only direct monetary terms is short sided and can easily lead us astray. Think of it this way, compare the “value” of lets say gold, to the “value” of air. We think of air as free, and gold is – well, valuable – how odd is that?   Just imagine that if you take gold away, your fine but take air away and you’ll die. Seems to me that air should have far more value then gold since we can not live without it. Compare diamonds and water – do you see my point? These days we seem to describe something as valuable based on a flawed system. All too often we loose site of what’s really important and take them for granted. The children then grow up in a world where they are taught to hold monitory things as far more important then the natural world, which is dangerous for the well being of everything and is something we need to correct right away. If you replace the word “valuable” with the word “precious” it helps but still we see terms like “precious metals” as opposed to “precious forests”.

Image from forestpolicyresearch.com

How does this poor use of the term valuable lead us astray? Take the recent budget cuts here in the United States. The goal was to cut spending so they pulled money from things considered less important, or to put it another way, less valuable. Being a naturalist all my life I knew what that meant long before anyone itemized the cuts because I have seen this many times. It means that laws protecting the environment, agencies whose job it is to enforce environmental protection even protected wildlife habitat all come under attack. That’s because of the confusion about value. There are those in government that want very much to exploit the natural world for profit and have a long track record of doing exactly that. Trading (air) and (water) for (gold) and (diamonds) when you think about it.

The irony is that I know we are better then this and so do you. I believe the majority of us care, I mean who wants their family to not have air and drinking water?  What I can not understand is why so many of us are all but unaware when these “precious and valuable” natural resources come under attack. Our future depends on our society learning to live “with” the natural world and not in spite of it. We all would rather see a clean and healthy watershed and forest then a devastated one.

Image from Care2.com

In the recent federal budget cuts were things like “lifting protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. Now I am no economist mind you, but how exactly does failing to protect an endangered species help federal budget shortcomings? What that really is all about is special interest groups out west in this particular case, called “ranchers” who have been trying to open up wolves to hunting since they were reintroduced. The Wolf has as much right to exist on public land as any other species does and certainly more right then free roaming domestic cattle in my opinion. They are public lands we are talking about not just a particular piece of private land. Now in my case after being involved with these discussions and paying attention to what has been happening I no longer consume beef. I made that choice many years ago after hearing multiple reports of ranchers killing wolves. I figured that was the one thing I had the immediate power to do and that no one person or organization had the power to control. So instantly I was no longer their customer and therefore stopped supporting their business. When you purchase beef you are funding them after all. We have all heard the term “the customer is always right” because in business you want to protect the relationship with your customers because that is literally how you are paid. The point being if enough of the beef consuming public wants to “protect wolves” we could then demand it of the ranching community by our own purchase decisions. There are some ranchers, that have stood up and “do” actually work with environmental groups to protect their cattle but at the same time not harm the wolves. Those ranchers should get more publicity for their positive contributions and also provide a venue for those in that market. In this way, protecting wolves would become a reality because in the end of the day don’t “we the people” control that money. We just need to put our money in the right places where we see the most “value”. Imagine that instead of the flash mob phenomena simply dancing in a mall, we instead used the power of social media to take control of protecting wildlife by shifting our purchase power.  Rest assure that there is nothing that gets attention to a cause like moving our buying power money around from folks who hold that, as the most… “valuable”

Wolves are “valuable” because a clean and healthy natural world does consist of apex predators.

Image of Earth's water cycle from NASA.gov

Other recent cuts that gave me direct pause were things like the gut wrenching $1 billion from Environmental Protection Agency. Remember the EPA enforces laws to protect against greenhouse gases, clean drinking water etc. Think of what will happen at the hands of coal plants for example, without that level of monitored and safeguards in place. Other groups that received cuts were the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consisting of industry scientists around the world dealing with the impact of climate change. There was even $407 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Ironic when you think about how they are cutting the funding protecting against greenhouse gases and then cutting the funding for new sciences to help break our dependency on things that produce, greenhouse gases. Projects like high speed rails not only help reduce greenhouse gases by providing alternative commuting but also create jobs so I found that odd that they have even cut funding to a high speed rail system. At the same time as we are talking about federal “overspending” I was curious about how much money was being spent overseas. What does it cost to be in Iraq and Afghanistan these days etc? A quick online search shows that we spent over 1.1 “trillion” (with a T) dollars overseas fighting battles in places that produce oil. A source of energy that creates greenhouse gases. I found this website with a chart showing how fast money is being spent overseas that is actually a near real time view. http://costofwar.com/en/ I am not affiliated with the site so I cant speak about it other then they have a great chart showing the cost.

Now let’s talk again about our use of the term “value”.

According to dictionary.com the top three definitions of value are as follows:

1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.

2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.

3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

I still am not really seeing the point of why we think “money” is more “valuable” then “Clean Air”, “Clean Water” and “Wildlife”. I believe we have become confused about what’s important in life and those who would sacrifice all we have for a quick profit are making decisions that will profoundly impact each one of us, our children and the world we all share.

Nothing is more valuable then Mother Earth and its time we recognized that.

Mark Fraser

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You Are Not Alone

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

A long time ago in North America, a great man that came to be known as the “Peacemaker” met with representatives of many northeastern indigenous nations to demonstrate the power of unity. He held a single arrow in the air and with a quick snap demonstrated how easily it could be broken as a single individual. He then took many arrows and bound them together, and tried to break them with all his might but could not. “Together we are strong” he proclaimed. That inspirational meeting led to the founding of the “Haudenosaunee” also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The social implications set into motion a chain of events which eventually traveled around the entire planet as European settlers in America were inevitably introduced to their first democratic participatory system before the United States ever even existed. That amazing political and social model of representatives from different groups and nations to vote for the overall benefit of everyone created a model that influenced everything from the United States constitution to the assembly of the United Nations. Though today those facts are often overlooked in many of the history books, a little digging clearly demonstrates the power of unity of thought, or another way to look at it is “To be of one mind”.

“We Are All related” and very much so in fact, every atom in our bodies has the same origins as every thing else on this amazing planet. That is not a gesture; it is science and is one of the amazing truths to life on the Earth. So we are connected in ways that most, hardly even understand or are aware of. Knowing that together we really are strong and that we each are connected is a great place to start from when talking about the environment as whole.

With the world economies in serious turmoil, what environmental laws there are to protect our forests and watersheds seem to be on the chopping block yet again. Unlike the social activism of the 1960s and 1970s recent generations have quieted down to a point where many of the things we believe in and care for have honestly come under very serious and real threats. If we do not stand up for what we believe in, then who will? Our willingness to preserve natural resources is the only thing stopping big business from literally leveling everyplace we know and hold sacred for the pursuit of money, a particular kind of hunger that can “never” be satisfied.

Remember that many arrows bound together will not break; the point is that when we all stand together with pride and honor then we are strong enough to be capable of creating real social change. You are “not” alone at all in fact there are millions of us who really do care about wildlife and the health of the natural world. Even many environmental groups have become businesses as opposed to voices for the people so efforts to protect wildlife often focus on cute cuddly species that are easy to raise money for.

It is time for “all” of us to be heard. The natural world is not an object to be bought and sold like a product at a retail store; it is the habitat that “we” need to survive. Humans and wildlife all share a common destiny, what happens to wildlife really does happen to us. That is much more then a nice saying, it’s a fact… When you hear about species extinctions on television or online remember you are also a species and the habitat loss causing that extinction is working its way into your own habitat as well.

We have reached a fork in the road of our history like never before and have to now decide which way to go. Do we sit back and let big businesses decided what happens to the clean and wild places we all love and cherish or do we grab the steering wheel and change the course of our destiny to a better place?

“We decide”. Just know this for those of you who do stand to help preserve clean and healthy wild places, to raise your voices to be heard in your communities you remember that “You are not alone” and I am standing right beside you, we all are.

Mark Fraser

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Living with Carnivores: The Coy Wolf

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

Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes and I truly love them all, but let’s face it some species have a bad rap.  Carnivores for example seem to suffer from a skewed public image.  Let’s talk about that for a moment. Cats are carnivores, and very serious ones at that. When domestic cats are left outside suddenly cuddly little fee-fee is pouncing on Chipmunks and songbirds and in fact “millions” of birds and many other species are taken each year from our domestic pets.  Despite this fact, Cats are considered “cute” so regardless of the science about what really happens, they are left outside and continue to harm local wildlife because they are lucky or even smart enough, to make friends with humans. That’s an important survival skill for a carnivore these days since we are still learning how to coexist with wildlife.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Let’s look at another species, the “Coy-Wolf” also sometimes called the Eastern Coyote. This is a large predator with some animals reaching huge sizes of 50 to 60 pounds double their western cousins and is actually due to the genetics of being a hybrid between the Western Coyote and the Eastern “red” Wolf.  Like the Cat, this animal is a true carnivore and in the case of the Coy-Wolf is also a very intelligent opportunistic and social hunter.  Unlike that Cat, the Coy-Wolf suffers from a very serious public image problem. They pay a terrible price for that fact and are hunted relentlessly in many areas of their habitat and despite their wild beauty, haven’t yet been able to win over us humans.  Coy-Wolves are a “stunning” looking animal reminiscent of wild times long ago and one would think that people would warm up to them.  They look like, and are very closely related to dogs who are our best friends so what exactly is going on? Well first of all we can’t tame them and many people are bothered by that.  They are really wild, not like the domestic cat who just acts like that when you’re not looking.  The other problem is a real one – they sometimes will eat unprotected cats that are left outside. Our pets are our family and people who have lost a small dog or cat to a coyote or Coy-Wolf certainly have good reason to be upset.  There is however more to the story, and rushing to judgment isn’t always the best approach.  Living with carnivores requires some disciplines to ensure the safety of your household pet as well as the safety of the wildlife. Think of it this way, living next to a road (like most of us do) is far more dangerous. We learn common sense rules at a very young age. “Look both ways before crossing”, “stay in your lane when driving” and the list goes on and on. Following these rules is the best way to ensure your safety. Would you let your small dog or cat cross a busy highway?  Of course not, that’s because you know the rules and the consequences.  Living with carnivores also comes with rules and is by far, much safer then the highway. If you leave food outside for your pet you most likely will attract wildlife including carnivores.  So leaving a doggy dish with food in it can attract Coy-wolves.   Leaving your pet outside unattended is taking a chance that could put your pet in harm’s way so try and keep a leash on your pet or at a minimum stay with your pet. Most importantly, do not let your pets out at night. There is no need since you can easily set a schedule with your pet so they go out when it’s safe to do so. If you must let them out at night for some reason remember the earlier leash rule.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

Like the highway, following all the rules doesn’t mean that something unexpected can never happen however, it will greatly reduce the risk of an incident that can hurt your pet, and the wildlife.  People often ask if humans are at risk from Coyotes and Coy-Wolves. The answer is certainly “no” you are completely safe I have been in the presence of these animals many times. Here is another way to make the point. Every year, there are more fatalities from “domestic dogs” then there are from coyotes or coy-wolves in “all of recorded history”. Please read the previous sentence twice, it’s important.

The environment flourishes when there are carnivores its nature’s way and trust that she knows exactly what she is doing-she has had alot of practice.

Image courtesy of http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.  Mother Nature chose them to fill a niche in the natural world fixing an apex predator void that we humans created. Learn about this beautiful species online from scientists studying the species like Dr Way http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com and cherish their incredible songs. Recently I had the honor of spending time with Dr Way tracking radio collared Coy-Wolves during the night and studying them.  His critical research is helping to better understand this amazing and yet poorly understood species. You’ll see more about the Coy-Wolf and observe some actual film taken during the research trip in the coming weeks on the Nature Walks Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/nwwmark

They are as beautiful as any species you will meet and I hope in time we all can learn to both appreciate, and live “with” this beautiful singing wild k9 called the Coy Wolf.

Mark Fraser

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Native Wild Flowers a magic place

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

These days many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives hardly noticing the goings on in a forest or swamp. Even within feet of our own homes wildlife continue to carve out a niche. At night while we sleep many species begin their moonlit search for food. Life in the wild can be tough especially these days where their habitats are so very fragmented between the ever growing developments of humankind.

I know many of us wonder “how could I help” sometimes thinking that the big picture is out of our hands. Some even think that there’s an agency or government group that will come by and save the day however that is not going to be the case. You see each of us individually contribute to the problem and therefore, we are each part of the “key” that will unlock the solution.  The fact is “you” do matter and “your” input is critically important.

What if we looked at our residential development in a brand new way where we consider our overall ecological impact? Is that so radical of a thought? The good news is that when you actually think about it, it’s really not very difficult at all.

We could look at each of our own yards as eco-friendly habitats where birds were safe from toxic poisons like lawn chemicals. We could inspire native plant species to thrive and therefore help insects as well.  These simple steps only make our yards much more beautiful and allot healthier then a chemical filled nearly sterile lawn. For example, imagine if every home created something as simple and beautiful as a native wildflower garden section right in the yard. This would allow pollinators like wild native bees and many other insects to find a source of food. That in turn creates food for birds and so on. Simple steps like this can make an enormous positive impact on a very large scale when you think of the big picture and make a great contribution to the health of wildlife species that live right in our own backyard. You see that is something “you” can personally work on taking care of your part, in the big picture.  If many of us did this throughout a community we can make a huge impact, this can grow to a national or even a global scale. That’s the power of working together as a collective. It’s a trick found in nature from ants and Bees as well as many species around the Earth. There is strength in numbers and it all starts with each one doing their part. That means both you and me right in our own backyard.

Choose not to use chemicals and research the impact they have on birds and other species that can eat poisoned insects and even unknowingly feed them to their young ones. You see your part in keeping the world green, clean and healthy literally depends on your choices and your ability to share those good choices. If you allow for a “green patch” of wild flowers and share that story with others you may actually inspire them to do the same.

Then the idea can grow wild, on its own, just like the flowers themselves. If you have children show them the magic of all the different species that live in your native wildflower garden and research the many species you may find there.

You may even find unexpected things like Eft Newt, Frogs and countless others species. There’s a magical world of wonder to be found even in small patches of native wild flowers and you can help protect wildlife with something that takes no more effort than to simply not mow it down.

It seems like a wonderful trade when you think about it!

Mark Fraser

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A “Wild” bond we all share

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

During my life I have been fortunate enough to have had the ability to travel. Nothing crazy mind you, but certainly enough to greatly expand the areas where I could take some time to observe and study the local wildlife and fauna. I remember long ago being in Central America in the Panamanian jungle for a couple of months.  During that time, I had the honor of seeing so many species that make their home in the tropical double canopy jungle environment. I remember walking through a river almost neck deep in the water and the local crocodilian species of “Caiman” were sliding into the water from the banks. I had incorrectly thought that they never grew larger then 4ft in length… whoops hahahaha. The excitement of the moments of discovery and awe of the wild world enlightens the mind and charges the senses. When we are in a forest or jungle long enough our ears and eyes seem to spring to life and the sound of the wind in the trees is suddenly a dramatic and beautiful event.

When I speak with people from around the world about wildlife, I am always amazed that deep down “all” of us are just as fascinated. Even when I have met people that at first seem as if they don’t care, I find that they have simply become so busy day to day that they have forgotten the joy of wonder and discovery found in nature. Within minutes of sharing a film and talking about a wild moment I see in their faces that deep down they care also and are really just as fascinated as the rest of us. You see, nature really does bind us all around the planet. It has “always” been a part of our lives and “always” will be. When humans first began to speak you can bet those early people were making sounds to mimic birds and animals. Probably allot better then I can do (not from lack of trying) :-) .

Taking the time to teach our children about local wildlife is absolutely paramount towards the future health of the entire world. Remember, our children will grow up and make the decisions about how we use our future natural resources. From learning about the species of fish in a local brook to learning about the backyard birds at the feeder and everything in between it will ensure an admiration that will often blossom into real heartfelt conservation. It works no matter where you are from; remember admiration for wildlife is a wild bond we each share. We just need to take the time to do exactly that.

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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