Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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The Love and Pain of Loving Living Things

Today, my heart aches. It feels full of love and full of pain, in thinking of animals, their lives, and how they are negatively impacted by us. This was caused by the juxtaposition of my day yesterday watching the Palomino Buttes wild horses and seeing a video about animal abuses in an “organic” manufacturing plant on Twitter today.

blog 3 groupYesterday I visited the wild horses over near Burns. I just did a day trip with the drive being 4 hours each way, so I only had time to visit the Palomino Buttes Herd. What I have come to love about visiting this herd, is that there are a few individual horses that I follow. Each time, I see just a day in their life and it may be 2 or 6 months since I saw them last. Sometimes, a family member is missing. Sometimes a new foal has been born. Sometimes bands have interchanged mares and foals – that is the way of the herd. It is different than watching a wild animal in a national park, because the chances are that in a national park, I will never see that individual animal again. Also, with many of the wild horse herds, they are somewhat used to having people watch them. They are still wild, still feral, but more habituated to people. Some bands are more at ease and will tolerate people at smaller distances. I’m not going to discuss the cons of that, though there are many, but for me, as an observer it is a blessing, as I’m able to watch these fascinating social animals without them immediately running away, although some still will, especially if they have a newborn foal. I don’t try to interact with them and for the most part I stay some distance away, although they can go by me, or I them, where the distance becomes closer to my exhilaration. They are aware of me, they tolerate me, but even that in itself can change their behavior, and if I feel they are too hyper alert I will pull back. Often they become acclimated and just ignore me.

Blog 1Photographing horses and wildlife in general, is a far different cry than photographing landscapes. It is imperfect. It is split second decisions, continuous shooting, trying to remember to adjust ISO to get the best exposure while keeping a high enough shutter speed to capture movement. In landscape photography, I compose my scene, set my settings, wait for the right light. The light may fail me or not, but the components of the scene are not constantly shifting before my eyes. When I am photographing wild horses, versus a wild animal in a national park or wilderness, I have multiple potential subjects. Some are drinking at the waterhole, while one is rolling in the dust, and in the background a foal runs in circles around its mother (this example taken from yesterday). Great photographs opportunities if I can capture them in the maybe 3-5 minutes that the horses are near me. Also, often I am in my car since the car acts as a blind , so I am stretching and contorting myself to get the best composition I can. Sometimes I do stealthily approach by foot but many times the horses will allow a closer proximity when I’m in the car. Once I come out of the car, the animals are more aware of me and my presence may startle them.

blog 4 lrg groupOften I will continue to photograph even though I know the horses are too far away or the composition isn’t that great. I do this, because with the horses, I am interested in have the photographs as a record to learn from; later I will review the band make-up and if it’s a band I’m familiar with, the differences in the band make-up or to try an identify certain horses since I saw them last. Later review also often brings about behavioral observances that can be overlooked in the moment. There are also periods when I’m just watching the horses and enjoying their presence and feeling a bit left out as part of me would relish being part of their camaraderie and really being able to know how they feel.

Traveler with his Bachelor BandI was pleased to see my favorite horse of this herd, Traveler, yesterday. (These horses are sometimes named by locals).  In May, Traveler was still with his family although his elder brother, Pallaton, had been kicked out from the herd, but later this past summer I read Traveler too was kicked out. Yesterday I did see Traveler with his new bachelor band yesterday. I read a blog where the writer had watched the eviction of a colt from its family herd, a natural event, take place. First the band stallion started chasing the colt away (usually 2 or 3 years old). The colt was surprised and kept wanting to return. Then the mares also started to chase him away until he got the message. It is a part of the natural world that is difficult and breaks one heart, but it is needed for the colt to gain independence and necessary for the stallion to maintain his band from possible competition from the colts whose hormones are kicking in. Perhaps in the future, the estranged colt will have his own band. It is what I hope for Traveler. Usually these colts join bachelor bands until they are mature enough to challenge another stallion for its band or a mare. Nevertheless, it is hard to witness the real love and affection between the parent horses and their offspring and to see the joy and energy of a young horse, and then to see that horse have to go out on its own and take on the responsibilities of fending for itself.

Blog foal 2a

Another thing that I saw yesterday that filled me with love and pain, was a very young tiny foal for this time of year. This was the one that was running circles around its mother. For October, the foal was very small and I worry that this little one might not be sturdy enough to make it through the winter. Foals born later in the season are more at risk as they have less of a chance to gain the weight and strength they need for winter.

Blog foal 2bEach morning on most days, I have a twitter routine, in which I retweet fellow photographers and artists’ work who I follow and try to respond to some of those who have tweeted to me. I often try to retweet things about issues to do with protecting our animals and natural places. This morning I saw yet another video about factory farming in which workers were intentionally and sadistically bringing more pain to animals in what is already a torturous process. Why do we have to be so inhumane? When I say we, it is because we are complicit if we eat meat whose source we don’t know. I count myself among the guilty. Why can’t we have laws that require our food manufacturing to be done in a way that respects each and every life. Many animals kill for their food, but generally they don’t go out of their way to make it more horrifying than it has to be. Seeing videos like this always affect me deeply. On one hand I don’t want to see them, but on the other hand I feel I need to as it reminds me to try not to eat meat, and to be more conscious about what practices I may be unconsciously supporting.

ThirstAnyway observing the joys and hardships of the horses yesterday and my feelings after watching this video this morning put me into a very thoughtful and sad mood full of conflicting emotions, and I felt like writing about it. I haven’t felt like writing in a while being so overwhelmed by what has been happening lately in this country politically. And there is so much is at stake. More and more animals species are threatened by loss of habitat, and though some would deny it, we are beginning to see the impact of changes to our climate. Wild horses have been mismanaged for a long time, but there has been a recent push by this congress to kill the horses that are in the holding pens and to lower the numbers of wild horses in the interest of ranchers and other powerful monied interests that want the use of our public lands. While many in any government (past and present) are not usually there for love of animals or ethics, this current administration and congress are even more blatantly for profit at the expense of animals, natural places and even safety to humans (e.g. getting rid of regulations, allowing drilling or mining, etc). So much so, they are willing to cut science out of all deliberations concerning climate change and environment protections. Most Americans profess to love our wild horses. I doubt anyone would say that it is okay to allow pesticides that we know are harmful to children, or to our water, or that end up in our food. Most of use even believe in climate change, but what I find horrifying and incomprehensible is why many can find this current administration acceptable in light of their appointments of people who seek to dismantle years of work to create laws that protect that environment. We cannot count on corporations to self-monitor.

CompanionsOne new Twitter follower commented that since many of my photographs are horses, I guess you love horses, or something like that. This struck me in a wrong way. As if it was the same as liking ice cream.  I know that wasn’t that his intention. In a way it has nothing to do with my love. My animal photographs are striving to show that animal as a living, conscious, feeling, experiencing being. Yes. I have always loved animals, but I love them even more deeply now that I’ve come to more fully realize their aliveness which I feel is the same as mine. What do I mean by that? I don’t even know fully what I mean myself or at least not in a way to put into words. I don’t profess to know their consciousness or to understand as much about them as say, Jane Goodall understands about chimpanzees, but when I watch and photograph animals I feel them as living beings, I feel their life force. And I respect it as much as my own. Sometimes they are joyful, at times they look worn out, at times they are tender and at other times fierce. They have love and they have pain. Life is not easy for them in the wild. In many respects it is harder, but it does seem to be a life more fully lived.  And I feel that for us, as human beings to dismiss their life as a thing that can be tortured for convenience’s or profit’s sake is a desecration of a sacred thing. For us or our elected, therefore chosen, representatives to trade their freedom, to monetize animals or just think of them as as a menu item, to threaten their future as an individual life, let alone as a species because we don’t like the inconvenience of actually having to share the planet, or because someone needs a campaign contribution from a special interest party, or because we’re promised a fucking tax break and are willing to overlook the price of that (because the drive behind doing away with regulations and so called “hand-outs” is really all about money, isn’t it?) is profane. I want to live in a world where love will help to heal the pain of life and where it is extended to all living creatures. That nearly half of this country wants to avert its eyes from the not so nice things that are being done in the name of progress and can accept politicians who are willing to sacrifice our environment and the living creatures who dwell there to the highest bidder, well, that indeed is sad.

To learn more about protecting Wild Horses: https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/

Recommended books: Rachel Carson – Silent Spring

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Alaskan Wonderland

Male Brown Bear at Lake Clark NP

Male Brown Bear at Lake Clark NP

Seeing and being able to photograph bears and cubs in their wild habitat was on my bucket list. I wanted a place where bears were plentiful and I could observe them and their interactions to each other. I’ve seen grizzlies and black bear in both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, but only at a distance and in a very fleeting way. So I researched several different places in Alaska and found many places were simply not feasible for my budget. I finally settled on Alaska Homestead Lodge in Lake Clark National Park. I was a bit disappointed that due to my late scheduling (I had procrastinated about whether I could afford it or not and finally went for it in early March) there was not room for me to stay overnight, but I arranged for a day trip, which means you are flown over from Soldotna, Alaska in the morning and are picked up about 5pm that day.  I also wanted to see Denali, but found I had waited too long as all reasonable places to stay had sold out, so I decided to explore Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula instead.

Portage Lake, No. 3

Portage Lake, No. 3

Alaska is quite expensive, but seeing as their tourist time is probably limited to two months or so of good weather, I guess this is to be expected. I was only there four days, but each day was so full of beauty and wildlife, I consider the outlay for my trip to be money well spent.

My first full day, I went for a 5 mile walk/hike in Kincaid Park. The park is right in Anchorage but has wildlife, including moose and bear. I was so excited to see a bull moose within the first 30 minutes of my walk, and then later I came across a moose and her calf. Later I also visited Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Area and then drove down Turnagain Arm to Portage Lake. This was in early July, so it never gets dark. Luckily the hotel had blackout drapes and after a long day, I fell asleep easily.

The second day I headed out on the Seward Highway. The drive is known for its beauty. I had a taste of it the day before, but as I got further on the Kenai Peninsula, I found myself breaking into songs from the Sound of Music. The scenic beauty literally made me want to sing. I was filled with a renewed sense of awe at how beautiful our world is. I was surrounded by snow capped mountain peaks and lush green valleys. One especially beautiful place was Tern Lake, right at the junction of the Seward and Sterling Highways. The lake had a lot of wild birds, including a swan family with a cygnet.

Though I was trying to watch my budget, a few days before I left, I arranged for a half day boat tour of Resurrection Bay in Seward. Next time, I will take a full day trip in order to see more of the fjords. The tour was through Major Marine Tours and was informative and wonderful. I didn’t really listen to the information as I was out on the boat’s deck taking pictures and trying to keep warm! Sadly, clouds had started to blow in, so the light and contrast were not as good for the scenery or photography, but I saw lots of wildlife, including mountain goats, sea lions, two different types of puffin and humpback whales. After the tour ended, I headed over to Soldotna, where I was scheduled to fly out the next day for my bear viewing adventure.

The forecast for this day had changed to rain, but thankfully it turned out to be a day where the gods took take pity and granted a reprieve! The flight over to Silver Salmon Creek at Lake Clark National Park, was short (about an half hour) and filled with amazing scenery of the Cook Inlet and Redoubt Volcano among the other beautiful snow capped peaks. There is a beach where the plane lands, and brown bears could be seen in the distance clamming. These brown bears are genetically the same as the grizzlies in Yellowstone and other places, but because the food sources are plentiful, they tend to be less aggressive and the dynamics between the bears are different. I was excited and just wanted to get going, but we had to get in the ATV trailer to go to the lodge to get on our Wellington boots first. There is a line of fir trees off the beach and beyond that a very large meadow with a dirt trail around it for the ATVs. Across the meadow are a few structures, a few belonging to Alaska Homestead Lodge and next to it the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. There is also a ranger in residence during the summer. The creek is off to the south, and that area becomes the focal point later in the summer as the salmon begin to run and the bears congregate there. In the meantime, the bears graze in meadow sedge grass and go clamming. Behind the lodge and meadow lie wilderness and forest and mountains and the terrain becomes difficult to navigate through. Very close to the lodge, there were two cubs playing with each other while their mother grazed. By the time we got our boots and got back to the beach, the bears had started to come in from the beach, but we followed a mother and her cubs and watched as the triplets nursed. The day was filled with lots of bears and cubs. The cubs stay with the mothers up until they are three years, so most of the cubs were yearlings or two year olds, and I was beginning to despair that I would not see any of that season’s cubs, when we viewed a mother and two dark brown cubs way across the meadow. We finally made it there to watch the two young cubs. (It can take quite a while to make it around the meadow loop. Looking at my picture times, it took about 45 minutes from the north end of the meadow to go clockwise around the loop out to the beach and then to the area where the young cubs were.) They were adorable as they climbed over mom, but they were ready for a nap shortly after we arrived. The day went quickly but was rich with experiences. We also had a tasty salmon lunch (caught fresh the day before). The guide was knowledgable about the brown bears and I always felt secure and never frightened. We retained a respectable distance from the bears, and the distance was even greater for the very young cubs. I really didn’t want to go back on the plane, I loved being with the bears so much and this is a trip I want to repeat and not cross off my bucket list.

Dall Sheep Above Seward Highway, No. 1

Dall Sheep Above Seward Highway, No. 1

The rains did let loose on my final day, but even then I had a morning of just clouds and light rain when I went looking for the caribou herd that was supposed to be in the area around Sterling. Unfortunately I did not find them, although I did come across three moose. In the afternoon, it started to pour so I started back to Anchorage, stopping at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on the way. I felt sad to see some of the animals in captivity, but many of these are rescues – black bears cubs that were orphaned, or bears, moose, foxes, or owls that were injured or had to be picked up. If they are able to release them they will, but some will never be released as they cannot fend for themselves or have become too used to urban areas. The center was responsible for reintroducing a herd of wood bison back into the wild, so it does good work. There were also caribou, a new animal for the center, but they were in a back area going through an observation period. They are trying to get the caribou population back up in Alaska. The central Arctic herd that was 70,000 in 2010, fell to 50,000 in 2013 and is now estimated at only 22,000. The rain continued to pelt down as I continued my drive towards Anchorage. Suddenly through the heavy rain, I was surprised to see a Dall sheep ewe and its calf lower on the mountainside above Turnagain Arm. I quickly drove into a turnout on the other side of the highway where a man was watching the low tide and hadn’t noticed the pair. I had seen Dall sheep a couple of days before, but they had been specks high up above me. Not even the bad weather could diminish the joy I felt at seeing just another instance of natural, wild, and untamed beauty before I headed towards the airport to return home.

Big Girl

Big Girl


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Back to Burns, Malheur and the Wild Horses

If I had the time and money, I’d make the trip to Burns at least once a month.  My heart is so attached to the wild horses that I see out there, in addition to the wide variety of birds to be sighted around Burns and at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s not a huge trip for me, four hours, but long enough to require at least one night’s stay, and better with two, since once you get out there, the driving doesn’t stop.  South Steens Mountain is about 50 miles south of Burns which will take you through Malheur NWR and the small historical town of Frenchglen.  To really see all the area has to offer is to take forays down gravel roads and I have even ventured at times onto deeply rutted dirt roads where I prayed that my car had the clearance to pass over boulders and ridges.  This last May trip, I also did a bit of walking by foot to reach the wild horses as the dirt road became impassable by my passenger car.  One note: I do try and stay at a respectable distance.  The horses will be aware of me from quite a distance, but I don’t want them to be uncomfortable with my presence.

This Spring the area looked generally much more lush than last year.  I stopped first to see the Palomino Buttes horses which are west of Burns.  I was looking forward especially to see a favorite, more approachable band, that as of Fall last year, consisted of the Palomino Stallion (some locals call him a Dunalino), his primary mare, Bella, two of her sons, Pallaton and Traveler, from prior years, and a filly from last year.  Also there was a bay mare and her colt, and another bay mare that had joined them sometime during the Summer or Fall.  (Some of the horses are named by the locals.)  I didn’t see any horses initially.  Then I spotted white spots on a very distant hill (both Pallaton and Traveler were white/light colored palominos).  When I walked out, I saw it was my favorite band with some significant changes.  Pallaton was not with the band.  This isn’t such a big surprise, since as a three year old, he would start to have conflicts with his father.  I was surprised this hadn’t started happening last year, since Pallaton had already started chasing fillies in other bands.  Instead, he and his father seemed to work as a team, protecting their band from another stallion on the couple of occasions I observed.  I also observed that when the band was on the move, Pallaton would the lead while the stallion brought up the rear; this year Traveler took the front spot.  Though Pallaton’s absence was expected, it was still a blow, as the bonds between the family, especially he and his mother, and he and Traveler, were affectionate and playful.  Even the bond with his father had been a special one.  I still don’t know whether the bay mare and her colt were with the band. I think so, but the horses coats change so much from season to season and this time I wasn’t in close enough to compare other markings from my earlier picture.  There were also two new foals and at least one other horse I don’t recognize at all.

Though I hadn’t made it over to Burns until May, I did see some Sandhill Cranes still in the area, one pair with two colts (what the “chicks” are called because of their long legs), along with various other birds.  I didn’t even see the colts until I reviewed the images on my computer.  The birds weren’t as plentiful as they would have been a few weeks earlier but they were much more plentiful than they had been last May.

While in the vicinity of Malheur I was excited to capture a couple mammals I had not photographed before in the area, including, not one, but two hares.  Last year the ones I saw had proven too quick for my reflexes.  I also saw the first marmot I had seen in Oregon as well – a yellow-bellied marmot.  These critters spend most of their time in their burrows (80%) hibernating or otherwise, so I was lucky to capture this one.  I had seen a flash of one about an hour earlier than this, so apparently the beautiful Spring day was too enticing to pass up.

I also saw the usual suspects, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.  Mule deer are distinguished from white-tailed deer as their tales are black, their ears are larger, and antlers fork rather than branch on the males.

Just past Malheur NWR, is the small historic town, Frenchglen, population 12, and continuing on Hwy. 205 you will find the south entrance to Steen Loop, a gravel road that loops around the mountain.  The road will usually be blocked at some point during Spring due to snow as the mountain rises over 9000 feet, although it does it in a fairly non-dramatic way.  If you’re lucky you will be able to view some of the wild horses in South Steens herd.  I’ve been lucky to see multiple bands together on two occasions and on other occasions, a small band by itself.  This time, I was not exceptionally close to them but it was wonderful to observe them – some playing, the more mature grazing or resting along with the foals.

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Is it hard to see why I’m in love with this place?  If you travel out there, don’t expect luxury. You will get the most basic of accommodations and a very limited assortment of restaurants.  In fact, you will need to be sure that you fill up on gas before you leave Burns to go exploring.  During summer, the temperatures can get quite high, so it would be advisable to carry water for both you and your car.

I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed this post.  To see more of my work, please visit Belinda Greb Photography for all of my published work.  My next post will be on some of the beautiful Oregon waterfalls I’ve visited in mainly Silver Falls State Park.

 


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This is Our Home, Resist and Protect

This has been a pretty bleak winter on all fronts with a lot of cold, rain and anxiety. But on the days where the weather has permitted I have tried to get out to take advantage of the beauty the winter season can bring to our natural areas and to get away from the news.

icicles-triptych-w

Icicles Triptych w

I have recently been reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – and this book should be a must read for anyone who would like to visualize the world without the regulations that so many have fought for over the last 60 years and that are now being threatened. These regulations not only protect our environment and wildlife but us as well (higher-ups on the food chain but still subject to it).

winter-lamb

Winter Lamb

Call your congressmen and tell them you do not approve of repealing regulations that have protected our wildlife, environment and you and your family in exchange for corporate profits. Our future, your child’s future should not be for sale. This site (back online 3/6/17) will help you track environment subjects –Click Here

All of these landscapes or nature images in the slideshow below (except the last composite image) are from areas that are our public lands – either federal or state. We start off from a heron landing in the marsh at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (state); Willamette National Forest in Oregon (federal) including Carmen Reservoir and Fish Lake, then to the Neptune Scenic Area and Cook’s Chasm along the Oregon Coast above Florence (state). The last image is a composite of some woods and deer photographs I had and is entitled “This is Our Home” and meant to be a reminder that we share the planet with wildlife and flora, and I would hope we can learn to respect that.

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My next post will show some images from the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area up near Portland, Oregon.

Also, I have put together a sampler of some of my photography over the last few years.

I do rely on sales to further my photography journey. My photography is for sale at: Belinda Greb Photography (via Fine Art America); Radiance Photos (Etsy); Belinda Greb Photography at Amazon HandmadeBelinda Greb Photography at Society6 or in the UK at Belinda Greb Photography at Photo4Me. Some of these sites offer various products in addition to frames, matting, canvas, metal or acrylic prints. I fulfill the Etsy and Amazon Handmade site prints and offer prints up to 16×24 (signed on the back). Thanks for your views and patronage.


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Looking for Inspiration

 

Inspiration. I haven’t found it in the election cycle, the divisiveness of Americans, the Malheur occupation or subsequent acquittal of seven of the occupiers, the online reality world of likes and emojis, the difficulty in finding a common ground to discuss climate change or race relations. So I look for inspiration in the place I always do – nature.

touched-by-light

I’ve felt more tethered to home this year and a major part of this was my own doing: worry about a family member, worry about my old car, worry about expenses resulting in a general lassitude.

I’ve explored less and as a result I have felt somewhat like I’ve been treading water throughout the year, barely keeping my spirits afloat. The mini-trips to see wild horses in Eastern Oregon and Mount Rainier have been islands of bliss in an otherwise fairly dull  year.

family-of-horses

When I see the affection and bonds displayed in the wild horse families and bands, I wonder how so many can fail to acknowledge, value or respect that. But to constantly think about things like this is debilitating because I lose hope that human consciousness will ever evolve to a point where a majority of the people can think beyond themselves and do what is best for the world or can have the same compassion for others (including animals) that they have for themselves.

When I’m out in nature, I don’t think about these things. I just think how beautiful things are. I want my photographs to convey that beauty – to make people remember that there are things worth preserving for future generations, that there is a natural world that we can be inspired by and emulate. I can still find inspiration in works of art and literature, but it’s a lot easier to find it in nature. Here’s hoping mankind can remember we’re part of nature and not the overlords of it before we destroy it.

For more of my photography please visit: http://belindagrebphotography.com/


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Another Wild Horse Family from the Palomino Buttes Herd in Oregon

I have to admit something – before I started really observing animals for my photography, I never really thought in depth about family in terms of what it means for other species. Growing up, we did have four generations of Irish setter dogs – the first three generations females and the last generation, two brothers, but I was young, so I didn’t think about that.

To humans, family is sacred. Nothing should come between parent or child. Siblings should be close. But when I think of what our domestication of animals does, I see we do not honor those same bonds. While even in the wild, the animal young will eventually separate from the parent (in some species much sooner than others) there are emotional bonds, and for our own purposes and conveniences, we think nothing of breaking those bonds because we are not thinking of animals as sentient beings. For that matter, many do not value their lives. Think of all the celebrities that millions idolize (especially pop icons) who wear the skins of dead animals as a fashion accessory. But let me get back to the idea of family and emotional bonds. There are bonds, easily observable, and if we observe these, then maybe we can start to think of animals in a different way, more like ourselves, and maybe we can start respect the lives and the emotional bonds of animals more. I think we would be better humans for it.

Caption (Starting from Upper Left and going clockwise) 1) Bella mother of Traveler and Pallaton. 2) Traveler, colt born in 2015. 3) Band Stallion (name unknown) and father to Traveler and Pallaton. 4) The two brothers. 5) Pallaton. 6) Fun and games between the brothers. For more wild horse photography, please visit my horse gallery: http://bit.ly/1QoDBaW.


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The Need for Public Lands

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and
a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. – John Muir

Two American White Pelicans

Two American White Pelicans at Malheur NWR (©Belinda Greb)

Lately my heart and mind have been in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a wild gem of Oregon taken over in early January by armed militia. This takeover was in response to the arrest of Hammonds, two ranchers who intentionally set two fires that spread to public lands endangering lives, (in 2001 of the young relative who was instructed to set the fire and  in 2006 of firefighters who were in the area). Bundy and his followers purported to take over the refuge for the purpose of returning the land to the people – a ridiculous proposition since the land already belongs to the people, as in “We, the People”. They didn’t want the government to manage the land and instead unilaterally decided that they would be the ones to do so. Malheur NWR is one of numerous  public lands that have been set aside by our forefathers who wisely saw the need to preserve natural habitat and wildlife for future generations. I suspect most of us consider this a blessing, but sadly there are those that consider it an overreach of the government.

Falling Light on the Marsh

Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Falling Light on the Marsh ©Belinda Greb)

Public Lands

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln ceded land around Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove Area to California for use as a state park in response to Galen Clark and Senator John Conness who argued that with the increased tourism since since the mid 1850s, unregulated commercial interests were becoming a threat to the area. This would set a precedent for establishing Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park, Meanwhile after 11 years of trying, Ferdinand Hayden, was finally able to put together a geological survey in to the Yellowstone Area. This resulted in an influential report, that included pictures by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and in 1872, Ulysses Grant signed the Act of Dedication which made Yellowstone a national park. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_National_Park)

Waiting for Wolves in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park (Waiting for Wolves ©Belinda Greb)

There was opposition at that time to the establishment of the park. Local settlers in Montana worried that the economy would suffer from federal prohibitions and so numerous bills were put forth to reduce land-use restrictions. There were those that wanted the land for logging, mining, and hunting. Sound familiar?

The entities in charge of public lands need to balance the needs of interested parties while protecting the land. While hunting is not allowed in National Parks and many Wildlife Refuges, on other public lands, hunting is allowed. There are guidelines for the logging that takes place on public lands, and there will always be controversy about whether these guidelines are too strict or not strict enough. Ranchers were allowed to continue grazing their cattle on public lands and charged a nominal fee. Grazing fees per AUM (animal unit per month) was raised in 2015 to $1.69. Of course fees for grazing on private or state lands is much higher. In Oregon, the state fee is $5.60 in 2016. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grazing_fee) How many of you can feed your pet dog or cat for that $1.69 for even a couple of days?

William Finley Refuge

William L Finley NWR (William Finley Refuge ©Belinda Greb)

In addition, as opposed to owning the land, the ranchers are not responsible for the financial cost of purchasing the land, maintaining or paying taxes on it like other property owners would be. But apparently some of these occupiers, like Cliven Bundy, feel that they should not have to pay any fees at all, and for years he has gotten away from this, refusing to pay the fees or remove his cattle from federal lands. After a court order allowed officials to remove his livestock from federal lands in 2014, armed supporters advanced on collectors resulting in a standoff. The cattle were not removed by BLM due to their concern that employees might be harmed or shot. So now Cliven Bundy owes the people over $1 million dollars and continues to graze his cattle on public lands. If our society continues to give in to this type of behavior, we will have anarchy.

Flight of the Great Blue Heron No. 2

Seen at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Flight of the Great Blue Heron ©Belinda Greb)

There’s certainly a right to question how the land is being managed, but trying to bully your opinion across via intimidation and guns is not it. The government entities that regulate these lands are not above reproach, but they are trying to balance the rights of the community along with the special interests of ranchers along with the wildlife advocates and environmentalists. How can this be an easy task? And of course the administrators are also going to be have their own personal opinions and beliefs. But dissenters should take any issue with that management to our legal system or the media.

Pete French Long Barn No. 2

Malheur NWR (Pete French Long Barn No. 2 ©Belinda Greb)

Malheur NWR

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908.  The land was initially occupied by the Paiute Indians. Settlers then came in and took over much of it, relegating the natives to a reservation. How ironic is the world view that rages against the government but really isn’t talking about returning the land to the original inhabitants.

One settler amassed with his employer, Dr Hugh Glen, over 140,000 acres.  He also restricted access to water to other fellow settlers and in fact was murdered in 1883 by one settler whose access to water he denied. Not a pretty story.  Some of the land was sold to pay of company debts, and after being resold, nearly 65,000 acres was incorporated into the refuge in 1935. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P_Ranch)

Great-Egret

Great White Egret seen at Malheur NWR (Great Egret ©Belinda Greb)

In the late 1880’s bird populations were being decimated by plume hunters who used their feathers for hats or  vanity wear, as I like to say in regards to fur coats. In 1908, photographers, William L Finley and Herman Bohlman noticed both the diversity of birds and the horrible effects of plume hunting. Finley successfully personally lobbied President Theodore Roosevelt for federal protection for the area. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malheur_National_Wildlife_Refuge) The William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge, also in Oregon, was named after him in 1964.

I find myself getting so upset and angry by the Malheur occupation. First I’m angry at the nerve of other people coming from out-of-state with their guns, taking over the buildings, government vehicles, blocking roads, and causing so much damage, not least of which is the emotional damage done to the community around Burns. This is an invasion. There were threats to people and their families who worked for BLM or USFWS, and there has been a huge financial cost to the county.  I am also angered at this threat to a beautiful refuge and the wildlife that is there.

Private vs Public

If these protections were not in place, we would not have our system of: 58 national parks; 560 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 wetland management districts; 155 national forests and 20 grassland areas; and other state managed wildlife areas. These are open to people to enjoy, but more importantly to conserve natural resources and habitat for wildlife. How would these lands have fared had they not been under federal protection? Look around – how well have mining, privately owned logging companies, corporate farms served the land or the interests of the general population? In addition, there’s a wealth of information and recent discussion about how cattle grazing impacts environment and climate. Google it.

Cows

Cattle on Public Lands in Harney County (©Belinda Greb)

“Why should we protect this lands? How will it benefits humans, or really me?” some may ask.

  • Deforestation results in global warming. Trees absorb greenhouse gases and return moisture to the air. Once they are cut, the land will dries out quickly.  Clear cutting results in loss of habitat for many species – 70% of animals and plants live in forests. (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/0).
  • Loss of habitat results in loss of species. Just think what would happen if there were no birds and how that would affect the insect population. How would that affect crops or the spread of insect transmittable diseases…and so on? What about the disappearance of a predator that helped keep the rat population in control? It’s all about balance. The loss of one species can result in the overpopulation of another. There is a fine balance between prey and predator. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a novel that clearly explains this issue.
  • If there were no regulations, there would be no limitations on the type of chemicals that are used or other safety regulations that exist for a reason. Even with regulations, there are not enough controls and we’ve seen the impact of the chemicals on bees which are so important pollination and agriculture.
Surveil

Red Shouldered Hawk seen at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Surveil ©Belinda Greb)

If resources are not managed, there is no sustainability. This affects us directly in regards to food and shelter. Would you really trust Ammon Bundy who represents his own interests or the interest of like-minded individuals over a government department that while cumbersome is still subject to the interests of many, including: legislators, citizens, and businesses?

Those are the self-interested reasons for preservation and conservation.

Acorn Woodpecker

William L. Finley NWR (Acorn Woodpecker ©Belinda Greb)

Being a photographer, and spending a lot of time observing animals, I am on the side of the wildlife. We do not occupy this land alone. We share it with animals and flora. We have already created an environmental imbalance that threatens not only our future, but the future of all living beings. We have used our lands and water as a huge trash can that we think we can keep pouring our waste into without consequences. Those consequences are catching up, and it is the poor and the animals who will suffer first.

These public lands are also important in that for many that is the only place that many will see life in a near natural state. The beauty and understanding that come from being in nature to those that are open to it can give one a profound respect for life, its vulnerability and its resilience. Nature can make us better human beings by connecting us to the the larger natural world that contains a multitude of life outside the “me.” It can teaches us that life is not ego-centric but all-encompassing.

Love your public lands and protect them.

Resilience-w11x14

Wild Horse seen in Harney County (Resilience ©Belinda Greb)

Photographs taken at: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Harney County, William Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Yellowstone National Park,  and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (run by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife). belindagrebphotography.com