American Museum of Natural History: Conservation, Wilderness, and the American Dream
from left: Douglas Brinkley, Michael Novacek, Lisa Graumlich, Rick Ridgeway, Paul Vahldiek and Tom Brokaw
Happy Fuzzy Friday everyone!! This week’s Fuzzy Friday Feature comes from the LeFrak Theater at the always amazing American Museum of Natural History. This week John and I had the privilege of attending a lecture given at the AMNH on Conservation, Wilderness, and the American Dream. The lecture was moderated by Mr. Tom Brokaw (that’s right THE TOM BROKAW) and the panel participants included; Douglas Brinkley, Presidential Historian and fellow in history at the Baker Institute and a professor of history at Rice University, Lisa Graumlich, Dean of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, and Paul Vahldiek is Chairman/CEO of The High Lonesome Ranch, Colorado and a founder of High Lonesome Institute, Colorado. As you can imagine, the lively discussion that took place about wilderness conservation between such accomplished environmental advocates, led by Mr. Brokaw was indeed an amazing and enlightening experience, one that I will never forget.
Over the course of the evening the discussion between the panelists covered a wide range of topics. The first topic was about ways we can help to stop the continual fragmentation of animal species happening as a result of developments being built in their habitats. One of the most popular solutions among the panelists was the idea of getting private landowners and the federal government to dedicate some of their land to be preserved corridors between the fragmented habitats so species could reconnect and breed, therefore helping species populations thrive rather then becoming endangered or extinct. Another issue they addressed was how we can motivate businesses to work harder at wildlife preservation. If large corporations were more motivated to be aware of how their daily operations can negatively affect the environment, perhaps this would lead to more businesses taking steps in the right direction to help protect the environment. The panelists also broached the topic of how imperative it is to educate our children and also people who live in urban areas about the environmental changes happening across the US and the world. They pointed out that that those who don’t live around the majestic mountains, lush forests, or rolling plains of our great country, often forget how urgent it is that we do all we can to help save our environment, reminding us that we have only just begun to see the detrimental effects of global warming.
Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was when the panelists told stories of some of their favorite encounters they had with wildlife of the Great American West. Rick Ridgeway told a story of a wolverine he had tracked with a environmental preservation group to help understand and define a wildlife corridor. The wolverine, known as M3, (which he referred to as badass due to the species being known to chase a grizzly bears away from their kill) was collared and tracked by GPS leaving Montana, going north to Canada, taking a 700 mile trip through British Columbia before heading back to Montana. On the wolverines trip, which it decided to take in February, they tracked him climbing up 49,000 vertical feet along the steep side of Mount Cleveland in 90 minutes to hang out for a few hours on Glacier’s National Park highest peak before continuing on his way. Definitely badass!
Tom Brokaw ended the evening with a story of his own about a magical encounter he had one evening while walking the grounds of his beloved ranch in Montana. He actually told the same story at a graduation speech he gave at the University of Montana in 2011 :
“About five years ago at this time of the year, I was at our ranch between Livingston and Big Timber. The water was high in the West Boulder River and I went to an overlook to check its condition. And out of a grove of aspen down below me emerged a small herd of mother elk, accompanied by their three- and four-week-old calves. They paused for a moment on the sandbar and they looked at me 200 yards away and thought I probably posed no great threat. The water was high and swift, the fore bank was loaded with hawthorn bushes, very thick. The cow elk led their offspring into the spring to get across to the greener pastures, and all of them made it except one. That poor calf couldn’t get through the hawthorn bushes, and he was caught by the water and swept downstream just below me. I wondered for a moment about what to do. And then he found his way into an eddy, he got back on the sandbar, tried again, failed a second time. Then he failed a third time. The herd of cow elk stayed on the far bank, watching, it seemed to me, nervously. And his mother made her way down to the far bank, looked at him – trembling and exhausted on the sandbar across this raging river – and as God as my witness, she nodded her head, waded into the river, led him upstream and helped him across. I was renewed by that moment and I think about it often because as so often happens, we are instructed by nature. We’ll come to a lot of raging rivers. We won’t always make it across, but we must be there to help each other during times of turbulence so that we can get to the higher ground.”
The lecture Conservation, Wilderness, and the American Dream at the American Museum Of Natural History was such a special evening and I am beyond grateful to have been able to attend. Have a wonderful weekend EVERYONE!!!!
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