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Eating Snow: Climate Change, Snowpack and Agriculture Water-Use Policy in the Methow Valley

August 1st, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Annah Young, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

I wedged myself between two boulders on the summit of Silver Star Mountain in Okanagan County, Washington and peered out over the North Cascades range. It was May 1, 2016. Mount Baker was crystal clear some 100 miles to the west across the snow cover peaks. The mountains were shimmering, almost blindingly so, in all directions with miles and miles of snowfields. The day was hot, almost 60 degrees in the sun at an elevation of 8,875 feet. Our ski boots were standing on a snowpack of over 8 feet deep I was trying to fathom the amount of frozen water surrounding me. Looking to the east I saw the Methow Valley and Okanagan County expanding into the horizon and tried to imagine the journey that the water molecules beneath my feet will make, providing habitat for migrating steelhead trout, nourishing Cottonwoods, and irrigating crops that become food to nourish the people. I chugged the last bit of water that was in my Nalgene, filled it to the brim with snow, stuffed the bottle in my pack and skied down 5,000 feet of glorious spring corn snow.

Snowpack in the North Cascades has declined between 20% and 40% since 1950 (Stoelinda, Albright, Mass, 2009, p. 1). Snowpack in the mountains is stored water that provides life to all organisms including humans by irrigating and growing the food we eat. Snowpack is declining due to natural climate fluctuations and anthropogenic global warming.

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Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 6

April 4th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Much of the opposition to the recovery efforts of the grizzly in the North Cascades stem from hikers, climbers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who fear recreating in grizzly country. Where hiking in grizzly country brings more risk, hikers in the Northern Rockies and Alaska will tell you that it brings a new thrill and sense of wildness to the outdoor experience.  Being aware of how to responsibly recreate in grizzly country can greatly reduce some of the risks involved with hiking and fishing in bear country. There are many resources available on how to recreate in grizzly country from the National Park and Forest Services as well as many non-profit organizations such as; Western Wildlife Outreach, The Great Bear Foundation, and The International Grizzly Bear Committee.

What people also fail to realize is that even if the North Cascades were to start recovery of the grizzly population, it would be 25-50 years before people started to see them, and another 100 years before the population recovered completely, due to how slowly grizzlies reproduce.

The problem in the Pacific Northwest as stated above is that we have never had to deal with grizzlies unlike the people in the Northern Rockies. The only thing we know about the grizzly is from what we have seen from American culture, and unfortunately American culture has not painted an accurate portrayal of the grizzly bear. If the North Cascades is to effectively implement its recovery strategy it needs to succeed on two levels; first it needs sound science to back it up, which it has, and secondly it needs support from the public, and the only way that the public will become okay with the grizzly bear walking around in the Cascades is if we begin to tear down these false images of the grizzly and start to properly educate people.

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joye drops joye barnes

Every Day

April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

An American female, on average, has a life span of 81 years. This equates to 29,565 days. And for the males? They live an average of 76 years, or 27,740 days. Minus childhood (ages 0-18), these numbers still compute to a hefty 22,995 and 21,170 days, respectively.

A ridiculous amount of opportunities to do something, anything, helpful for the planet, no? That orb supporting our every breath, our every dollar exchange, our every swig of beer, our every kiss, our every mouthful of fried calamari, our every status update and win at Call of Duty: Black Ops. Or, if we’re tired or bummed or stuck in a Groundhog’s Day rut and not feeling especially fired up and go-get-em, at least there is a constant chance to do less harm, trod a little softer and have an effect simply by not impacting so forcefully.

EarthDay calendar K. RenzThe daily to-do list, as dictated by the forest and fern fronds. Photo by author.

Earth-Day-the-official-holiday began on April 22, 1970 in the wake of catalyzing events, notably the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 because the water was filled with industrial chemicals. This first celebration was largely credited with launching a new movement to protect the natural world. Environmental legislation that is easily taken for granted now, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, became policy soon afterward.

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