Posts Tagged ‘Conservation’

“Perfect is overrated.” – Tina Fey

Burr Trail switchbacks through Waterpocket Fold on the back way to Capital Reef National Park.


Back when I was an environmental reporter for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, there was an ongoing battle about what Southern Utah wilderness areas should be protected. One of the battle issues involved the Burr Trail that begins in the small, off-the-beaten-track town of Boulder. The four-wheel drive, mostly unpaved road takes adventurers through a spectacular landscape to Capital Reef National Park and/or Lake Powell’s Bullfrog Marina in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Hoodoos at sunrise in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

I’ve driven the trail twice, once just for the sightseeing, then again with a photographer for a newspaper story shortly after the area was included as part of The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 – and more recently in 2020 reduced in size by the current man in charge at the White House.

Today, the first 30 miles of the 69-mile or so backroad is paved, which is more than when I traveled it.

I still remember those journeys vividly. Being away from all signs of human activity, surrounded by Mother Nature’s works untouched by development without even the mechanical hum of a refrigerator was soul renewing

I remember stopping at one breathtaking view and getting out of the vehicle to take it all in. It was one of those moments in my life when I felt I was exactly where I should be exactly when I should be.

Those moments have been rare, as I spent most of my life racing from one place to the next, hurrying to meet the expectations of both myself and others. I’ve met about half of those expectations, but until this season of my life never stopped to appreciate the outcomes.

While I don’t like the current social isolation so many of us are experiencing, I do like this quieter winter of my years. It has become the season for me to both learn new things, because I have time to read and study, and to make sense of my own history.

Each day I create a to-do list of more things I want to accomplish before day’s end than there are minutes and hours to accomplish. Thus, I have a starting point and a reason to wake up the next morning.

But when I first started this habit more than a half century ago, I actually expected to complete all the many listed tasks and heartily berated myself for failing. Foolish me!

Having accepted my limitations is why I copied the following quote by Dorothy Gillman in my journal when I came across it not too long ago while reading her memoir A New Kind of Country.

“… all of must grow inside or die, that it’s given to us to live, not on a straight line but a line that slants upwards, so that at the end, having begun at Point A, we may have reached, not Z, but certainly an ascension to I or J.”

I’m not sure I would have understood those words in my younger years. I guess it was the right time for me to read them. Just as the 1990s’ were the right time for me to drive the Burr Trail and explore the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, which I hope still belongs to all Americans when our children’s children are old enough to appreciate public lands.

Bean Pat: To all the utility workers in Tucson who got our power back on after the wind storm this week, and to all the others out there who continue to work at risk to themselves during this coronavirus pandemic, and to all those out in public who wear masks to keep not just themselves but others safe.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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 “Daylight follows a dark night.” – Maasai proverb

A group of Maasai women getting ready to dance for us. They live in a model Maasai community set up for tourist visits. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: A Hard Life for Women

It was the opportunity to see African wildlife, lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes and all the rest, that brought me to Africa. Kim and I came, or so we have been told, just in time to get at least a tiny glimpse of the continent as it once was.

The poachers, the developers, the fur trade, the masses of humankind are fast changing Africa, with many animals pushed to the brink of extinction – just as the buffalo, wolf and other wildlife numbers came near extinction as settlers moved west across America.

And just as our country finally and wisely set aside land to protect American’s spectacular landscapes and wildlife, Tanzania and Kenya have created national parks to do the same. But the conservation efforts have had a devastating effect on the Maasai, a nomadic tribe that formerly lived and grazed their cattle on what is now protected lands.

The Maasai were once famed warriors of legend who fought all comers – both to maintain their hold on their lands and to capture more. Their downturn began at the beginning of the 20th century when the British reduced their holdings by 60 percent to make way for their own settlers.

And in the 1940s, most of the Maasai’s remaining fertile cattle-crazing lands were confiscated and set aside as wildlife sanctuaries – conservation efforts I applaud. .

The Maasai leader of the model community sitting in his home of sticks and dung as he explained the Maasai lifestyle to Kim and I. -- Photo by Pat Bean

But I also feel said for the the Maasai fallout, which appears to me very similar to what happened to our own native Americans when white settlers moved in and began to dominate our own landscape.

The solution to the Maasai problem, as proposed by the Kenya and the Tanzania goverments, is for the Maasai to give up their nomadic way of life and assimilate with the rest of the country. While it seems a bit heartless, based on what we saw of the Maasai lifestyle, I agree.

Kim and I often saw many Maasai men wandering aimlessly along the roadsides in the Serengeti, and many very young boys herding a few cattle or goats as we traveled. The women, however, were left to build their stick and dung homes, gather firewood unprotected in lands where lions roam, transport water long distances, and to do everything else necessary to maintain a very meager hold on life.

Not only is the Maasai infant death rate high, many women die in childbirth as well because of the primitive conditions in which they give birth, and because of the lack of medical help. .

Bilal was uncharacteristically outspoken about the “lazy Maasai men,” and frequently expressed concern for the Maasai women. Kim and I certainly felt the same way about them.

I know it’s presumptuous of me, who spent only two weeks in Africa, and most of that wildlife watching in the national parks, to comment on such an emotional ethnic issue. But it was part of the experience. And I feel strongly that it should be shared. .

Recalling those observations, and the emotions that even now they continue to stir, I unashamedly weep for my Maasai sisters.

Next: Bird sightings on the drive from Lake Manyara and the Serengeti

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A landscape with more appeal to nature lovers than farmers. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Note: Since I have taken the pledge to blog daily, this is the first of 365 blogs for 2011. Maggie, my 13-year-old cocker spaniel co-pilot, and I are now in our seventh year of traveling across America. We live and roll down the road in Gypsy Lee, a 22-foot RV that now has 115,000 miles on her. I hope you join us for the ride.

Travels With Maggie

The Badlands “are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth.” Theodore Roosevelt

 My RV rocked and rolled for three days in up to 45 mph wind gusts that blew sand down through my air conditioner and into my tiny RV home as I sat out a South Dakota September wind storm just outside of Badlands National Park.

Once an ocean, then a jungle, now bad lands. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 Finally the wind broke – thankfully before my sanity – and I took the opportunity to go exploring. Why, I soon wanted to know was this land called bad. I found its steeples and ripples of striated red and white rocks that reeked with fossil evidence of an ocean, and even a jungle, in its past fascinating. Seeing it for the first time as a I drove through the park was awesome.

 Probably because it was a week day and also because the wind was still haughtily showing off its power in occasional bursts, it seemed as if Maggie and I, and the prairie dogs and rattlesnakes, had the park all to ourselves. Later that night, with the wind still jiggling my RV, I researched the origin of the land’s naming. It was, I discovered, a Sioux thing.


Watch where you step. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 The Indians had called it bad land because its formidable terrain was difficult to travel through and because the land was no good for growing things, As one who had traveled the awesome ground on pavement and who didn’t have to grow her own food, I realized my way of loving a land merely for the pleasure it gave me might be considered selfish.

 The thought brought me back to my days as an environmental reporter and my efforts to fairly cover the polarized issues of conservation and economic survival. I had realized back then that neither side was wrong and that compromise was usually the only answer.

 Thankfully, the act turning the Badlands into a national park was a win-win situation for both sides. The land is protected for nature lovers like me while our tourist dollars help keep food on the table for South Dakotans.

The wind was still blowing the next morning when Maggie and I continued our journey down the road. I wondered why someone hadn’t called this place Windyland

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