Category Archives: Conservation

More of us, less of everything else.

Gold. What Is It Good For?

Low grade gold and copper deposit, colossal waste pit, probable pollution of an ecosystem, mining interests and state government not caring about such inconveniences, blah, blah, blah.  The stakes on the Pebble Mine are extremely high.  In one corner we’ve got Canadian mining jobs and profits, in the other, one of the wonders of the natural world.  Before the bell, a few questions:

About Copper

Can you recycle it?

Can it perform a technological function?

Can you tie flies with it?

Er, yes, well....let's change the subject, shall we?

Can you say Butte, Montana? How about Superfund?

About Gold

Can you eat it?

Can you drink it?

Can you cook with it?

Can you heat your home with it?

Can it heal the sick?

Can you make jewelry out of it?


Can you poop in it?

Yeah, two in a row! Take that, food!

Copper has a variety of uses and continues to contribute significantly to material human progress (whether these contributions justify the slightest chance of destroying the Bristol Bay watershed is the subject of another post).  Gold, however, is becoming difficult to view as playing a positive role in anything, especially in these trying times.

Exhibit B

“But Truchacabra, gold is the foundation of the global economy.  Without it, the currencies of the world would have no value.”

I get it, but then again, I don’t. We’ve been getting it done for how long with currency made of paper.  Then we had plastic, and now we have computer screens telling us how much we have to spend as well as what we just bought. Paper, plastic, and computer screens, and I’m supposed to believe that a shiny yellow metal backing whichever media of exchange is somehow less abstract?

“Silly Truchacabra, gold is solid. It’s permanent.”

Well, lots of things are permanent, plutonium for instance, or a 20 square mile lake filled with mine waste.

Here’s how I’m afraid it’s going to go.  The powers will troll the villages near the proposed mine site.  They’ll find a few suckers who, though not amounting to a majority, will look like one after the torches and pitchforks are handed out. This group will get really loud, enough to drown out even the greatest shouts of reason.  From my masochistic perspective, it will be extremely fun to watch for maybe two minutes.

Fricking enviros! Killing jobs we'll never get in the first place!

In my dreams, I see God eventually sending Saint Peter down to check on things.  Having grown concerned about the state of his domain, the holiest of holies will want to know if the price of humanity’s soul really has no floor to it, if there’s anything we won’t do for a buck, basically, how deep is our gutter.

Peter will then describe a scene for us, taken from our not too distant future.  The last drop of oil has been burned, our last war fought.  We will have poisoned our last river, and the earth’s last topsoil will have been baked, flooded, and blown into oblivion.  On stark, barren terrain stand a woman and a man.  The woman holds a fat salmon, the man two bricks of gold.

“For a shot at eternity,” Saint Peter says, “tell me who’s your friend.”



Filed under Conservation, Tweet My Junk

Illiamna Shore: A Show Where Trout Are The Doorknobs

According to the tabloids, Kim Kardasian is a star.  I stumbled upon her TV show once, fought down my dinner, then continued to watch to see what the big fuss was about.  From pictures of her, I’d deduced that it was about certain aspects of her appearance, two in particular, but I wanted to be sure she wasn’t talented in other ways too.

OMG! Turns out she wasn't.

In the show, Kim shares time with her equally vacuous sisters as well as her vacuous mother who is married to a vacuous Bruce Jenner.  Yes, that Bruce Jenner.  If you google him, a picture of the hero decathlete of the 1976 Montreal Olympics pops up, then a blend of photos of him in his role as Dad in the Kardasian household and what can go horribly wrong on the plastic surgery table.

Proud to be American.......

...and proud to be a merkin.

As you may know, Kim Kardasian is an economy unto herself. Her show’s sponsors might include everything from big pharma to McDonalds. In the same indirect manner, Kardasian sells magazines (and the stuff they advertise), and, I would wager, trips to shrinks for young girls with ruined body images who might eventually replace therapy with a boob job from the type of doctor who took the sawzall to the face of her dad. People and companies, many of them respected, even paid to be included in Kim’s wedding, “earning” her about 17 million dollars. Rich young lady, yet as with Paris Hilton, nobody really knows what she does outside of emitting copious loads of greenhouse gasses.




Speaking of doorknobs…….

See if you can insert the letter H in the word "situation" and make a new word.

From the reality show “Jersey Shore”, this is Mike Sorrentino.  He is better known as “The Situation” a name he gave himself in honor of his pet abs.  As he will tell you, Sitch is skilled at working out his abs, tanning his abs, pulling up his shirt to show off his abs, and hot tubbing.  I’ve seen the show once, or maybe half of once, and I can tell you with certainty that this guy is so thick that not only is he allergic to books, but books are allergic to him.

He will make an estimated 5 million dollars this year from his show, endorsements, and products. Another chunk of this sum is from Abercombie and Fitch, a company so impressed by this guy’s idiocy that they’re paying him to NOT wear their clothes. With all due respect to Sitch’s hollow skull, I think he’s brilliant for pulling this off.  He or someone around him recognizes that his being a stone cold idiot has value enough to make him the kind of person Washington, D.C. is so afraid to tax. Brilliant!

To be more exact, of course, it’s tragic. It’s tragic that Sorrentino and Kardasian are not famous in spite of their shallowness, but precisely because of it.  It’s tragic that they are but two replaceable saps in a very controlled “reality” wherein nothing is real, and what is real amounts to nothing.

This process is how – given what we definitively know about minerology, toxicology, seismology, hydrology, ecology, and sustainable economy – the Pebble Mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay is even being contemplated in this day and age.  The low grade of the ore deposit will demand that an unimaginably huge pit will have to be dug in order to make the mine profitable, and a 20 square mile lake behind the world’s largest earthen dam will have to be created to contain its tailings. Downstream is the largest run of salmon on earth, a bursting recreational industry, and one of mankind’s oldest subsistence economies .  Dam failure, it’s over.  Aquifer contamination, and it’s gone.

But it is being contemplated, by the kinds of untouchables who get aneurisms at the thought of not banking another billion by next Friday.  Who cares if the jobs they create will not be Alaskan jobs? Who cares if the gold they dig up will go onto a Canadian balance sheet? And if the dam breaks? Really now. If they can condition society to get upset if Kardasian doesn’t have gold ding dongs on her bikini or the Sitch don’t have his neckbling, it’s not a big deal.

Salmon, grizzlies, moose, and rainbow trout are known in biological circles as “charismatic megafauna”, creatures that can arouse people to heights of civic enthusiasm and action. Baby seals, for example, spotted owls, and whales. Salmon also happen to be keystone species, which means they are the foundation upon which entire ecosystems are built. It is an incontrovertible fact that without healthy runs of salmon, Alaska as we know it dies.

Even though they appear satisfied with being charismatic megafauna, Kardasian and Sorrentino are unwittingly rocketing towards keystone status. We must not let this happen. Besides discovering a life strategy that involves far less consumption, we need to teach our animal friends how to draw more attention to themselves and to be serious a-holes about it. If you know a bear, tell him to get a posse and represent.  Tell your salmon buddies to go shopping for handbags and tiny dogs, and by all means possible, to party harder. And even if the rainbows you’re catching can snap your rod in half, please suggest a little more gym time, maybe a few more crunches. We need the dollas up in here; the future of reality depends on it.

Check out the six pack, dawg!


Filed under Conservation, Tweet My Junk

How to Win Through Chit Chat

In my capacity as someone who thinks our fishing resources are bound for the toilet hole if we just leave them as they are, I recently joined several concerned citizens for a boatride down the San Juan River with New Mexico state legislator Tom Taylor.  Mr. Taylor ran a bill in the 2010 legislative session that would have required anglers fishing the San Juan to purchase a stamp with their licenses.  The funds from stamp purchases would have been dedicated to conservation projects along the river, the exact nature and cost of these projects being unspecified enough to doom the bill.  That’s what I think anyway; if things were clearer, they would have been clearer.  There are poaching, sediment, flow, and stocking issues that could be tweaked to good effect. With Mr. Taylor (who is awesome by the way) still really interested in improving the watershed, we are going to take another whack at something productive, then another and another if need be.

San Juan bound sand, from Rex Smith Wash

Several days later, I and compadres from Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance visited the Valle Vidal, a high elevation elk park well-recovered from a history of rapacious overgrazing and logging.  Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was with us, and he allowed us to discuss with him how far we had to go until the future of Rio Grande Cutthroat trout was secure, to say nothing of the riparian habitat that ensures life not only for the trout, but for elk, and downstream alfalfa farmers whose supply of water in their irrigation ditches is always a concern.  Score another one for well-intentioned and hard-working legislators: Mr. Lujan and his staffer, Aaron Trujillo, were great fishing partners and were too kind in letting us bend their ears (pity they had to head home before about fifty head of cattle were seen wallowing in Comanche Creek in clear violation of their owner’s USFS grazing lease, but we’ll add that to the to do list).

The Honorable Ben Ray Lujan on the Rio Costilla

Then to El Vado dam, where concerned rafters, agency professionals from BLM and BOR, and fishermen discussed a “recreational hydrograph” which would give agencies a clearer idea of how to manage the timing of dam releases.  As I’ve learned from some friends at the Army Corps, water deliveries through the Rio Grande drainage are not immune to input from regular citizens.  It’s good to know, in other words, that we can influence how these agencies achieve the objectives that are required of them.  Acre feet can be delivered at once or piecemeal, just so long as they are delivered, and on time.

The lesson I learned over the last week is that so much is possible if we (conservation organizations, concerned citizens) take the engagement of our government seriously.  Stop playing the helpless victim, I say.  There is a NORAD, but it doesn’t include every branch of government or public servant.  I’m looking forward to getting to know my representatives on the Hill and the Roundhouse.  I hope I’ll resist the notion that the man in the agency uniform is “The Man” in uniform and not a person with a face, a work ethic, and body odor like many of the rest of us.

Honestly, I don’t think there is an alternative if we’re going to fluff up the Valle Vidal meadow, if we’re going to sustain the lunker brown fishery on the Chama, if we’re going to have any fishing on the San Juan at all as downstream water users develop their water rights.  Let’s develop our rights too, shall we?


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Hey Kids, Want to Play a Game?

Remember “Would You Rather”, that game you started playing early in adolescence and probably have ever since.  Back then, it was something like “Would you rather kiss Becky Friedman or swim in the sewer?”  Perhaps you evolved from there, to questions of whether swinging a waking dry fly for steelhead might be better than stalking a flat for redfish.  It’s not really a game I guess, because there are no winners or losers, but there’s a challenge in it that smacks of competition.  “Would You Rather” seems more interesting when its participants possess talents such as honesty and depth of imagination.

There is a movement afoot in the American west to drastically reduce populations of predator animals, both for the impact they have on animals like elk that humans like to hunt and for – a claim being pulled from an increasing number of asses these days- the threat predators pose to humans and poodles.  To certain “conservation” groups, there is seemingly only one predator in the world, the wolf, and it most certainly should be eliminated.  As one would expect, literature produced by these groups is much more hyperbole than biology, makes me wonder if anti-predator folks aren’t simply a bunch of fraidy cats.

OK, back to the game.  You’re on a camping trip, wearing your Smoke a Pack a Day ball cap, just sitting around the fire.  The moon rises full, and the howling starts up.  So would you rather…………………?

Get attacked and killed by that pack of wolves in the woods or get lyme disease? I’ll go with lyme disease.  I’ve seen a few people who got it from tick bites, and boy does it suck.  Very high medical costs, considerable long term incapacitation, the kind of inconveniences that can badly damage families with children or those with elders under care.  Lyme disease isn’t often fatal, whereas a wolf attack probably is.

How about wolves or dying of cancer?  Put another way, would you rather die once in a matter of minutes or time and time again over the course of years?  There’s the medical expense thing again, as well as knowing that your family gets to watch you go down the drain in super slow motion.  I think I’d rather be wolf poop.

How about if that howling in the forest was from a werewolf? Who would you rather disemboweled you?  As much as it would scare the holy bejesus out of me to even see a werewolf, I think I’d rather it was he who ripped me limb from limb, if only because he wouldn’t waste any time.

Consider that the odds of getting lyme disease are higher than the chances of a wolf attack.  And growing.  Thanks to our rich tradition of predator eradication and our resistance to predator reintroduction, animals like elk are subject to population explosions and all that comes with them – overgrazing, destruction of riparian zones, epidemics spread by insects such as ticks, more ticks.  I don’t know what the odds are of getting cancer, but given recent efforts on Capitol Hill to gut the Clean Water Act and neuter the EPA, I can’t imagine they’re going in the right direction any time soon.  At least I’ll put my money on wolf attack over cancer as something I’m certain is not how I’m going to die.

I think I’d even get eaten by a werewolf before a wolf on four legs.  Maybe not a real deal werewolf, but at least a metaphorical parallel, climate change perhaps, or any of the guys on Jersey shore.  There’s always something to fear beyond reason, some werewolf or bogey man.  Some wolf.

So let’s hear it.  Would you rather be attacked by a wolf, or…………?

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Fire on the Nuclear Weapons Research Laboratory

I love the sound of that, in a super Hollywood way, a super hot forest fire lapping at the perimeter of Los Alamos, Leonard DiCaprio wiping a tear from the soot-smudged face of Kim Kardasian, the golden, diamond-studded bikini of whom dominates the national news for the fifth week running….

Gong! Awake again, we’re back in tinder-dry New Mexico, and the Conchas fire is approaching Los Alamos National Laboratory for real.  We’ve been assured that the plutonium is safe from the heat and devastation, that we are safe.  Try as I might, I can’t remember being in this position, where I’ve no choice to believe something because the alternative is unthinkable.  I was at Kung Fu Panda the other day, and when I emerged from the theatre, I looked west and saw the smoke plume several miles high, like a nuclear bomb went off.  The real thing could happen.  I don’t care what they say, it could happen.  I and pretty much the entire population of this state cannot be convinced otherwise.

There is literally nothing we can do.  All the water I’ve conserved – Gus’ bathwater I’ve hauled outside in buckets, the toilets I haven’t flushed and pees I’ve taken in the yard, the drip irrigation system I spent a hundred fifty dollars and a weekend on – counts for nothing now.  At some point you can’t conserve what hasn’t fallen from the sky.

Sounds bleak, and no doubt it is, but this is a feeling I will try to remember for the rest of my life.  The surrender to nature.  The waning yet bottomless hope that swells in my chest at the sight of any dark cloud in the east that may be a sign that the monsoons have heard our prayers and are coming as fast as they can.  There are thirty seconds left, we’ve got the ball on our own goal line.  The rival fans are cheering, but Joe Montana’s under center.  This game is far from over.

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Fire on the Mountain

As of right now, over 7 million acres of wildlands are burning or have burned in the southwestern United States.  Outside my living room window, I can see smoke from one that went from 7 acres to 3 thousand over night.  Containment of this blaze just rose above zero but just barely, and it looks like the thing’s headed for the Pecos Wilderness, where there are no roads to bring in equipment and no lakes big enough to dip a helicopter bucket in.  The fire crews, I imagine, are sparse, since most of the manpower is probably over in AZ dealing with the mother of all forest fires that so far has probably wiped out at least a couple drainages where endangered Apache Trout have been hanging on by their teeth.

You know the story, a moron flicks a butt or leaves a campfire smoldering without another thought, in spite of the fact that it’s so dry out here that you can fart and start a grass fire.  This story is so old that I don’t care to hear it; you expect it in this age of No Fear window stickers and reality TV.  There’s no escaping the fact these days that, if given enough of a chance, a huge segment of our population can build mountains out of stupidity.

And because it’s so old, what I want to hear instead is where we will go from here. The people I want to tell me are the greenest of the greens, the folks that in this world of over 7 billion souls, believe that leaving it all alone will take us somewhere good.  Don’t get me wrong, I love and want lots of roadless and pristine (all relative of course; the American west has been mowed at least a couple times in the last couple centuries) wilderness areas to backpack in or just know about.  It’s the country that people don’t backpack in that concerns me, the places where people can drive to and build rogue campsites, burn whole trees, and shoot off Roman Candles.

In my mind, there’s a silver lining to the fires if we choose to see it.  As the kings of the hill, humans need to manage that hill.  Forests need to be thinned, not only as a fire prevention measure, but to improve habitat for wildlife, which greater numbers of people can seek with cameras, rods, guns, or bows.  Our connection to the land – too long in a state of atrophy – will gain strength that way.  Hands covered with dirt and blood will build this connection, not hands that do not touch what is, by command of clear responsibility, theirs to touch.

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Testify Sam Snyder

Almost everyone in the fishing world is opposed to The Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska.  Don’t know why.  Seems perfectly logical that we would flush a colossal ecosystem down the toilet for the sake of a yellow metal to make jewelry with and to store in Fort Knox for the sake of I forgot.

Here’s Sam Snyder on why we need to raise our voices.

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