Adios 2011, You Weren’t as Bad as I thought…

Yesterday when I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself for not having gotten much done in 2011, I started making a list. What all HAD I accomplished? What had I left behind that I loved best? And the list surprised me.

My book on Lories and Lorikeets was published in February. And I had articles in Bird Talk, BirdsUSA and WildBird.

In January the Inlandia Literary Journal published Homecoming a short story about a loft of pigeons in Banning, California and the places that make us.

I had two essays published at The Rumpus one that dealt with my love/hate relationship with home (and David Grohl) and the other about my grandmother. What We Lost When We Lost Barbara Jean made it on the best of list that week on Longreads.com.

I experimented with self-publishing and put together a collection of pieces to accompany the eBook release of Lift. My collection Rise came out in July. Lift continued on its journey and two chapters were included in New California Writing 2011. And I blushed when Zyzzyva thought the chapters were moving. Then I started work on the audiobook, running a successful Kickstarter, finding a recording studio and narrating the book myself. (Now for final edits)

Jessie Sholl, Tom Chandler and ACX interviewed me on their blogs while I mostly neglected my own. Although, I finished a parrot training manuscript and have a couple of other projects in the works.

Also, I made quite a few online friends into in real life friends. And I met Neil Gaiman and found myself remembering why I started writing in the first place.

Maybe most importantly, this summer I flew a Cooper’s hawk and found a new lens for my inspiration.

This is all my personal work. I don’t talk as much about my work as a conservation fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited, although I should. I spend more time working on that than anything else and it is work I am very proud of being a part of.  We managed to save a tremendous amount of NAWCA funding that was on the chopping block. In California we saw the breaching of a levvy in salt flats that had not seen tidal flow for over 100 years. I helped fund work in the Klamath Basin, the San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley of California amongst many other places in the West.

Recently someone asked me if I was truly dedicated to this work, if my plans were really just to wait it out until I was making enough money to live well as an author. I laughed. I buy lottery tickets too, but no one asks if my real plan is to win the lottery. “Aren’t you just working so that you can write?,” he asked. “Are you just working so that you can support your family,” I asked.

Then he asked how I get it all done. The short answer? I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I often wonder how people raise families and work at the same time. He should have asked me why I didn’t get more done. Then I told him that I sit in front of my computer most nights. I almost never watch television. I jot ideas down in between jumping from the shower and getting dressed for work. I write when I go out to eat. I write on airplanes. I daydream about storylines when I’m on the treadmill. I use my vacation time to do readings or to finish writing a project. I haven’t had a real vacation in 8 years. In my free time- I write.

That is how you become an author, but having a job you love helps. It helps a lot. So I am thankful for my free time, but also for a job that allows me to make a difference for something I care deeply about, conservation. So looking back, when everyone said, “Get er done!” I think I did. Happy New Year!

I can’t wait to see what the list for 2012 looks like… I can’t wait to hear what you get accomplished too!!

The Death of North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants?

View at the Office (Napa Plant Site)
View at the Office (Napa Plant Site)

Current suggested budget cuts on Capitol Hill would eliminate funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) bringing annual funding ($46 million in 2010) to ZERO.
 

 I’ll preface here… the budget needs to be cut. We are spending too much money and not enough taxes are coming in to cover our voracious need to get to the next better place. We will always need balance. There will always be a sweetheart with whom you will need to spend less time or have to leave out in the rain. And there is much to scream about being cut from the budget right now, but humor me for a moment. Let me tell you why my pet project should be protected.

The North American Wetlands Act was created to save the wet and wild spaces in America. Wet and Wild. This sounds sexy and it is. Fish need water. Ducks need water. And our children need the water which is filtered through the wetlands– the kidneys of our renewable resources. The best drinking water is utilized, muliplied and sifted through a place so perfect and pristine that you’ll need waders to even get a brief glimpse of its secrets.

And your children are welcome to the drinking water. I simply want to be in waders, waist-deep in paradise. Wetlands are both our health and our leisure. Either way, no organism lives without kidneys. It’s impossible. Yet we’ve lost 96% of our historic wetlands in California. We’re drinking the dregs of what was once a spectacular vintage.

Since the conception of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) in 1989 more than 1,600 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation of more than 25 million acres of habitat across North America. That’s about the size of Virginia or Kentucky. If all you know is California (like me) — there are 101 million acres in California. NAWCA has been responsible for the conservation of a piece of land about a quarter of the size of this state. This is a lot of something when you’re in a place where you basically have nothing …

There is more to NAWCA than this though. When I stepped into a position at Ducks Unlimited fundraising, I knew I was with the right organization. I knew what DU did for wetlands and waterfowl and that they had been consistently science-based and successful in their work since 1937. What I had no idea of –and what constantly amazes me is what a complex partnership of careful orchestration the renewal and protection of wetlands actually requires. NAWCA isn’t just a chunk of change being doled out by the government. It is the granting arm of the Joint Ventures, cohorts of conservation groups organized geographically and all following an agreed upon plan for rejuventating wetlands systems that can support the most diverse group of species possible, including humans. If you want funds to do wetlands work from NAWCA, you better be making the most positive impact possible or you don’t make the cut.

Conaway Ranch

Conaway Ranch

Speaking to this as a fundraiser, there’s another component to this that makes for incredible forward motion. Every federal dollar MUST BE MATCHED by at least one private dollar in donations. One dollar of NAWCA money may mean $8 for me in funding work on the ground. Who wouldn’t find it more appealing to give if giving means your dollar is stretched and incredibly valuable. Not to mention how very expensive it is to do dirt work in California…

Which also leads me to this point… NAWCA means jobs. This flow of philanthropic dollars helps contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and support more than 20,000 jobs. And I don’t mean just here at DU. We are a group of scientists, biologists, engineers and GIS specialists with only mimimal adminstration support. When we do construction, it’s contracted out. Hiring equipment, moving dirt, doing the on-the-ground work is handed over to the local economy from those dollars. DU runs a lean operation of specialists. We don’t own equipment or have construction staff in-house. We do the permiting, engineering, check the science and catalyze. Money invested here is money invested locally.

And all of this sounds very analtyical, thought-provoking and relevant. It’s true of course, the important things that NAWCA makes possible. If you were to corner me though, I would say that I’ve lost too much already, that every piece of California that has its wilderness cracked or smashed by concrete is one more blow to my already mostly-broken heart. We are supporting 12% of historical duck numbers on a mere 4% of historical habitat. Something is going to give. Don’t let it be NAWCA. You need wetlands and ducks need you.

Read more here and see how you can make your opinion heard.

In Wilton (photo by Rob Diebold)

In Wilton (photo by Rob Diebold)

Gearing up for Duck Season

Winter Pass by ViaMoi on Flickr Courtesy of CC Licensing

Winter Pass by ViaMoi on Flickr Courtesy of CC Licensing

The ducks are coming!

And so is the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest!

The Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest being is being judged for the first time in California and there are a lot of ancillary events going on especially in the Bay Area.

If you decide to come see the judging, look for me. I’ll be the redhead either texting to Twitter on my cell phone about the contest and running around in a panic.

So get out! Celebrate conservation and…put your stamp on it!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15

10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Birding on UC Berkeley Campus, Leave from the David Brower Center, CA, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley.

Join Golden Gate Audubon for a bird walk on the UC Berkeley campus.   Trip will depart from the David Brower Center.  Transportation to be provided. Binoculars recommended.  Teenagers and adults only please.

9 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Duck Stamp Art Contest Judging
, David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley.
Opening Ceremony is at 10 a.m. Ongoing activities at the center include kids activities, wood duck carving demonstration,  partner organizations on display, vendors sell stamps and products, and “Pick the Winner” contest.

1 – 3 p.m.

North Bay Restoration Tour Friday, Depart from the David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA
Take a free 2-hour bus tour of 3 restoration projects in San Pablo Bay with Ducks Unlimited. Seating is limited and first come, first served.  Please RSVP to rspenst@ducks.org.

Wood Duck Colors by Nick Chill Courtesy of CC Licensing

Wood Duck Colors by Nick Chill Courtesy of CC Licensing

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16

9 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Duck Stamp Art Contest Judging
, David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA
Doors open at 9 a.m. for art viewing and judging begins at 10 a.m. The winner will be announced at about 12 p.m.

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Shoreline Restoration and Celebrate World Food Day, Martin Luther King Shoreline Park, Oakland

Help “feed two birds with one hand!” Learn more and rsvp HERE.

10 a.m. –12:30 pm

Live from Berkeley: Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest- Video Stream

Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center, Loleta, CA.  For directions, call 707-733-5406.

San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center, Fremont, CA.  For directions, call 510-792-0222.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Visitor Center, Tulelake, CA.  For directions, call 530-667-2231.

Me & the Missus by Doug Greenburg on Flickr couresty of CC Licensing

Me & the Missus by Doug Greenberg on Flickr couresty of CC Licensing

11a.m. – 12 p.m.
Duck Drawing Workshop
, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Newark Slough Learning Center, Fremont
Learn the basics of drawing ducks and hear how youths can enter the US Fish & Wildlife Service Jr. Duck Stamp contest! Suitable for all ages.  RVSP  HERE by October 15 – (510) 792-0222 x363,

1 p.m.

Bird Walk – Leave from the David Brower Center for a guided 2 hour bird walk in the Berkeley area. Binoculars recommended.

2:30 – 4 p.m.
Amazing Refuge Race II, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center, Fremont
Using a GPS unit, teams of five will “race” to the coordinates given and perform specific tasks. Prizes will be awarded. Call by October 15th (510)-792-0222 ext. 363 to register.

3-5 p.m.
A Toast to Ducks: Duck and Wine Pairing Workshop
, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center, Fremont. Learn which types of wine goes well with duck. $10 donation.  Space is limited to 50 adults 21 years and over. Call 510-792-0222 ext. 363 for your ticket.  More info HERE.

Want to watch the art being judged from the comfort of your own home?? It will be streamed HERE.

Got Duck Stamps?

2010-2011 Federal Duck Stamp

2010-2011 Federal Duck Stamp

I’ve been buying duck stamps for eight years now. I knew that the money went toward conservation, but I didn’t entirely understand how it worked. I’m guessing most falconers don’t. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of working on the committee organizing the events surrounding this year’s Federal Duck Stamp Contest (in California for the first time) and wonder why I didn’t know that everyone should buy one, duck hunter or not. From USFWS:

Ninety-eight) cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Understandably, the Federal Duck Stamp Program has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.

There’s no question that this stamp is a powerful tool for conservation. What’s amazing to me however, is how this stamp came about. In 1934 in the middle of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, hunters said, “charge us to hunt. Charge us a dollar and make it go toward saving our land and the ducks we hunt.” What you have to understand is what a dollar was worth to these men. I heard Dale Hall, the CEO of Ducks Unlimited explain what a dollar could buy then. It could buy flour, sugar, eggs, milk… enough groceries to last you a week during a very very hard time. Honestly, in a much worse economy, albeit with echos to the time we are living in now.

So I was excited to buy my Duck Stamp this year, and even more excited when Ken Salazar made an appearance at the DU Headquarters to announce a new Duck Stamp Cache. This extra Duck Stamp will go specifically toward acquiring wetlands in the Gulf Coast.   

Have you bought your Duck Stamp? It shouldn’t make a difference whether you are hunting ducks or not. Every piece of wetlands purchased is a place saved for waterfowl, shorebirds …and our children. If hunters could step up and offer a week’s worth of grocery money in the worst economy in United States history, surely we can all afford the cost of a dinner out to keep some of our landscape wild.  What are you waiting for?

In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sell Federal Duck Stamps at our falconry meets. We are all conservationists at the end of the day, right? Check out Amplex to see how you can get Duck Stamps to sell at your events. Even you dirt hawkers ought to be buying one…

A Year for the Ducks

A Year for the Ducks

A Year for the Ducks

Working at DU out here in the west was “interesting” this last year, to say the least.  In California, we were particularly challenged by frozen bond funds, halting progress toward completing ten million dollars worth of contracted projects. The staff here put in long hours, seeking creative ways, such as a no interest loans from foundations, to get our work on the ground in motion again. They made it happen. It was pretty amazing.

All year we continued to partner with other conservation organizations and land trusts. We succeeded in ensuring the rerouting of a major electric powerline, originally proposed to pass through sensitive wetlands habitat in the Sacramento Valley. We were also involved in a major water policy package working to protect fish, wildlife and people from dangerous mercury levels, while also working to procure more water for our struggling refuges.

This year we embark on one of the largest coastal restoration projects ever attempted in the San Francisco Bay and continue our efforts to restore and maintain the Central Valley refuges, all hard hit by state funding cuts, as well as work with private landowners. Of course this is only a tiny portion of the entirety of projects in the Pacific Flyway, but it gives you an idea. I’ve got my work cut out for me raising funds for all this great stuff, but I think it’s wonderful that despite the economy there are still tons of incredibly important work being done in this office. I certainly landed in the right place!

But They Shoot Ducks Don’t They…?

It’s hard to wrap my head around it, but I’ve been at Ducks Unlimited for almost a year now. The difficulty of the wrap around is less about the passage of time and more about the information I’m still trying to absorb. The amount of work that originates in the Western Regional Office is astounding. If you think there isn’t a whole lot of wetlands conservation going on on the West Coast states…you should give me a call sometime.

There is of course, more to learn than just what is happening on the ground. Working in fundraising means knowing the culture that surrounds you and understanding how to tell your story. And I’m always shocked at the complete misunderstanding of the DU story. Out in the interwebs and at dinner parties with friends what I hear the most is, “What’s the point of conserving ducks if you’re just going to shoot them later?”

I could go on for hours about the minimal impact of hunting, the value of natural resources, the importance of comprehending the value of food, the debilitating effects of nature deficit disorder and on an on but that isn’t really the question that gets asked. It’s “why save them if you’re going to shoot them?”

TealFlyingKays2It’s a valid question, or at least would be if “Ducks Unlimited” shot ducks, but we don’t.  Waterfowl hunters shoot ducks. Don’t get me wrong, we love waterfowl hunters at DU and it’s because these hunters also invest a tremendous amount of money in the conservation of waterfowl and wetlands. People who hunt waterfowl often support Ducks Unlimited. In fact, they are the backbone of our support. Still, Ducks Unlimited doesn’t shoot ducks.

So it would be more logical to direct the question to hunters and ask why they spend their money on conservation and supporting DU.  Every time I have, I’ve been stunned at the passion and articulation of their answer. It is a conversation I recommend every curious person ask. In fact if you don’t know any gun hunters, go ask NorCal Cazadora. She could write rings around my best explanation of why I personally hunt.

The bottom line though, is that Ducks Unlimited is a conservation organization. The people in the office with me are biologists, engineers, GIS specialists and support staff.  True, our restoration projects are open to hunters as often as possible, but they are also meant for bird watchers, bicyclists, kayakers etc. We prefer that wetlands be experienced and enjoyed. It’s the only way to convince people to put passion into doing the “right thing” and being conservation-minded. We believe that wetlands are of value to everyone and for multiple reasons. (Clean water, anyone?)

I hunt, but less than half the staff in this office do the same. For the most part, they aren’t here because they’re hunters. They are here because they have a passion for conservation. For some of us that desire to conserve was born from hunting and for others it came from camping, hiking or a childhood of collecting tadpoles and salmanders. We all believe in DU because DU does critcal work that has a tremendous impact on the quality of life for everyone and everything that requires water.

So dear friend from college, next time you have me over for dinner and we’re two glasses of wine into the night, please don’t ask me why I work somewhere that saves ducks so that we can kill them. Ask me about the $8.2 million worth of work we’re doing in the SF Bay Area and how we’re going to restore the salt evaporation ponds into tidal marsh. If your going for a heated discussion, ask me why I personally choose to hunt ducks with a falcon when my day job is to raise money to conserve them.  Even if I can’t convince you that it’s okay that I hunt ducks we should be able to agree that you should support conservation.  Please support Ducks Unlimited. DU doesn’t hunt ducks. I do.

Addressing the Problem with Powerlines

From Subactive_Photo via Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

From Subactive_Photo via Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

There are nearly 37 million people in California, a tremendous amount of people who consume a stunning amount water and require a great deal of electricity. Usually around the office, we worry about water, but lately, power has been at the forefront of our conversation.

We use a lot of power in Northern CA, particularly in the Bay Area. This means as the population expands and there’s a requirement for even more power, more electricity  has to be carried somehow into our metropolitan areas.

Those gigantic transmission towers and lines are an eyesore however, and require a decent sized bit of land. The construction of a new transmission route is inevitable. It will happen. All the same, it’s a bad idea to point at the map and say, “No worries. There’s some open land right here. We’ll run it there.”  Which is pretty much what happened with the current proposal.

The current proposed routes of the California Transmission Project cut through District 10, Sutter National Refuge, Butte Sink, Yolo Wildlife Area, Stones Lake National Wildlife Area and a tremendous amount of other public and private wetlands.  See the map for more details. Some of this land is protected by conservation easements, some of it has seen the benefits of millions of taxpayers dollars and restoration work.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we weren’t talking about degrading a portion of the 250,000 acres remaining in a state that once boasted 3 to 5 million acres of wetlands which played host to 50 million waterfowl. We can’t afford to lose habitat.

But they’re just powerlines, so is there a problem?  Waterfowl experts feel that powerlines can impact larger birds, especially in foggy conditions when the birds may be killed by running into them. The real problem is that smaller waterfowl steer clear of habitat around the lines, giving the towers a berth of .2 to .5 miles, rendering a swath of the wetlands useless for conservation purposes.

No route is ultimately going to be a perfect solution, but it would be fantastic if the habitat were considered when making the final decision. Fortunately, there is some time for public opinions and comments to be considered.

Waterfowl hunters and conservationists worried about losing crucial habitat in the Central Valley need to write a letter before MAY 31st and send it to:

Mr. David Young

Western Area Power Admin

114 Parkshore Dr.

Folsom, CA 95630

Want more info? Look athe Western Area Power Adminstration’s website for further maps and details.

Why NAWCA Needs You

Ducks Unlimited Project in the Grasslands

Ducks Unlimited Project in the Grasslands

Hopefully, most of my waterfowl conservation and hunting friends are already aware of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), but did you know that the president has suggested a $10 million dollar increase in NAWCA funding for FY 2010?  This brings NAWCA funds up to $52 million across the country and honestly, it’s the sort of spending I can get behind. The government isn’t just throwing money at a problem. NAWCA requires that for every $1 given by the government at least another $1 must be matched in private funds.

To private donors this really means a great deal. Basically, if I come asking you, Mr. or Ms. Private Donor or Private Business owner, to commit to assisting in funding a project, the government matches the money that you give us. I can also leverage this money in the community because everyone wants more bang for their buck. And quite frankly, conservation projects that are based in science and solid engineering aren’t cheap.

Once upon a time, a million dollars went a long way. Those days are over.  And getting $1 mil in one fell swoop is not that easy of a proposition. However, $100,000 from five foundations, corportate partners or individual donors adds up to a milion. See what I mean? We love NAWCA.

Don’t get me wrong, every level of giving makes a big difference. The $100 or $1,000 people like you and I give a year adds up too. That’s why I give it. We need to keep the lights on around here.  Big money though, means big projects and with a fraction of our wetlands left, the work that needs to be done is huge.

NAWCA grants are tough to get. They are challenging to write and require a demonstration of an organization’s ability to nail the science, gather the appropriate partners, garner the confidence of the communties they work in and of course a record of success. A lot of the projects managed in my office though are backed by NAWCA. The people who work here and the projects they manage are just that cool.

I want these people to keep working. I want more wetlands restored. And if you don’t have $100,000 to help me restore the wetlands on the Pacific Flyway, that’s okay.  You could really help just by contacting your representative and senators and letting them know you support the NAWCA funding increase.

(Although if you have $100,000 you really should call me…)

Peregrine Take – Successful Conservation Might Lead to New Beginnings

There was a time when the peregrine falcon was considered a natural resource and a beloved partner to falconers. We trapped young birds on the beach during their first migration, flew them and hunted with them for a season, releasing them to return on the migration, just as wild as before.  I have been told that there is nothing to compare to a beach bird and I have throughout my falconry career lamented that I would never know this for sure.

Helen, the woman I would want to be were I in the UK, wrote a beautiful post about the history of beach birds, complete with a link to the LIFE photos (bless Google for making these available). And Isaac writes of the very real possibility of passage take returning to Florida (other states are following) but with the brutal opposition with which it is being met. Please read his post and consider the arguments.  (And HT to Rachel Dickinson who also linked to Helen and has a great blog.)

     I am just a baby falconer, pushing 40 and a Master, but a youngster in our continuum. Yet I have always lamented the loss of the passage peregrine.

From my memoir, LIFT:     

     “Falconry is a religion and at the center of falconry is a holy war for the peregrine.        

     “Fifty years ago peregrines were considered vermin, to be shot on sight. Many states had bounties that made sighting the gun on narrow wings profitable. Hawks and falcons were thieves that robbed humans of fine game, fattened chickens and lofted pigeons. There were few groups of people who valued the raptor. Yet the falconers valued them more than anyone. To the falconers there was nothing more perfect than a peregrine. Then the sea change came.    

     “In the years before I was born falconry was nearly eradicated for the sake of the peregrine. The cosmopolitan falcon had remained a stead-fast beloved to the falconer for more than three thousand years, but during the years of my childhood these birds nearly disappeared from North America. The falconers were just as mystified as the conservationists and then horrified when the blame was placed on their sport, on the few that loved them the most. Falconers were named nest-robbing soulless pirates. 

     “The North American Falconers Association formed a committee “for the preservation of falconry” and waged a war for their rights. The falconers saved their art, keeping it legal, but lost the right to trap a peregrine. In order to preserve the privilege to hunt with raptors, we forfeited the wild take of Falco peregrinus.

     “Birds were no longer trapped on the beach to fly a single season and released on the migration. Eyasses were no longer tenderly tucked in a jacket pocket to be rappelled down the sheer face of cliff eyeries. Yet the falconers were determined. If they couldn’t borrow them from the wild, then they would breed them. And the falconers succeeded where the scientists did not. I didn’t know it when I was eight years-old, but the falcon on my roof was a miracle of desire.     

     “Then the peregrine began to resurge as a wild population and burgeon as a captive-bred resource.     

     “When I was in high school the long-wingers, falconers who preferred the flights of the long-winged falcons had their choice of flighted companions from many different breeding projects even if they weren’t allowed to borrow them from the wild. As the captive-bred peregrine became more accessible, surprisingly, the war resurged as well.     

     “Scientists didn’t believe that falconers could be successful breeding the falcons when others had failed. Surely, the falconers were laundering wild birds through fake breeding projects that couldn’t possibly be producing young.     

     “Across the United States Fish and Wildlife Agents knocked on the doors of 60 falconers. Search warrants in hand they tore through homes, interrogated falconers, and confiscated their falcons. Described as “clumsy, clueless, ham-fisted jack-booted storm troopers”  They turned the falconry community upside-down and heralded the beginning of Operation Falcon.     

          “Some of the falcons confiscated were returned after lengthy arduous and expensive court battles. Others perished. Our government was convinced that falconers must be passing off wild birds as captive bred young in their breeding projects despite the lack of proof. Tried in the media, we were all dubbed international falcon smugglers.

      “There was little truth to the accusations. In fact the trial revealed that the main perpetrator was an undercover agent supplied with illegal birds by the government. He had set about entrapping whomever he could snare. Again the falconers fought for their rights, for the sake of their love of the peregrine. Again they won, but the damage was done. Federal agents, state authorities and worse, the public had tried the falconers in the media and proclaimed them wildlife criminals.

     “The peregrine is off the endangered list. Young wild birds are now abundant and pester our trained falcons in the field. We long for the short-term company of a truly wild peregrine but wonder if we’ll ever be allowed to trap them again. It’s doubtful.”

I was wrong to be doubtful, the possibility of the peregrine again being considered a resource is real and upon us but met with fantastic opposition. To touch, to engage, to understand is the future of our wildlife resources. There is no reason, scientific or even emotional, that the peregrine should not be a partner again to those of the mere 4,000 of us licensed falconers  (a fraction of whom fly peregrines), falconers who wish to worship peregrines as their humble servants once again.  

     This level of passion inspires, it spreads, it is the passion of the few who make the difference. Please support us. Florida is a new beginning.

Please send comments by April 15th to: peregrine@MyFWC.com

 

 

CA Budget Crisis

Photograph on a Refuge Outside of Lincoln (AKA the photo I took when I was lost the other night...)

Sunset on a Refuge Outside of Lincoln, CA (AKA the photo I took when I was lost the other night)

We’re all aching from the sudden shift in the economy. I doubt there’s a single person out there that hasn’t felt the effects of the recession. So there’s no need to launch into a sob story, but what is happening in California at least merits discussion, if only because it’s interesting.

In late December, while still waiting on budget to be passed, the California Department of Finance froze use of state bond money for general programs statewide.  (As a simple explanation, the state ran out of money.) The ripple effect of this was immense. Many organizations utilize this money. At Ducks Unlimited this instantly suspended many DU wetlands restoration projects and all payments for recently completed project work.

Bond monies fund a great many things, some might argue that work on state wildlife management areas and federal refuges is the least of these things.  All the same, over $7 million in DU project work has come to an ordered and screeching halt.

There are plenty of other organizations suffering over this and many without the national support and diversified funding of Ducks Unlimited. It’s just bad news for conservation in California in general. There are projects out there halfway finished and now sitting that will have to be started over, meaning they will cost more money.  (When you get halfway through the removal of an invasive plant species and then let the land sit fallow for 6 months… well you get my drift.)

Over $2.6 billion is now owed to organizations using bond funds for projects, and at least $20 billion in overall public project work is on hold. So now that the budget’s passed, the crisis has been averted, right?

Not so fast.

The state has to start selling bonds again before bond funding projects can get rolling again. And the state doesn’t really have the credit to do that right now. There’s some cleaning up and straightening out that has to be done. Then they are going to start working down the list to get money flowing as is available and conservation isn’t at the top of that list.  So many projects are probably not going to start up again until this summer at the earliest. In the mean time, organizations out there are letting people go or at the very least not hiring the people to do this work.

Interesting times in California.

So what you do? Now is perhaps the the most important time since the depression to support your favorite nonprofit conservation organization. (For me that’s hands down DU and not because I work there, I’ve extolled the virtues of DU for years.) If you can spare the gift, give it. If you can’t at the very least keep your eye on what’s happening with State and National policy. Changes are coming at us in rapid succession and not all of them are good for the long term. Make sure you educate yourself and make your voice heard. We need you more than ever.