Recently I had occasion to look for something or other in the house. Happens a whole lot these days, for "occasion" read pretty much every day or two. Seldom actually find it, whatever it is, even when I positively know where it simply has to be. Most aggravating. Magnificent waste of time and effort. Enervating.

Anyway, while on this recent fruitless search, I happened to notice a vaguely familiar looking document that had somehow unearthed itself and made its way to the top of an otherwise undistinguished pile of stuff. Intrigued, and frustrated besides, I peeked at it, reorganized it as something I'd written. Dated 40 years ago. Back when I was really, really young. Skimmed it and it turns out, realized I could in fact pretty much write it today.

Which, I suppose, means I had it correct then. Or, that I haven't moved on in all this time. Here it is, you decide:

You

Why is John James Audubon considered to be the patron saint of wildlife conservation here in America?

Because he early recognized the danger of extinction for wild animals, the natural beauty and the water and soil of North America. He was the man who wrote, in 1826, that "The stream, the swamp, the river, the mountain ... a century hence they will not be there as I see them. Nature will have been robbed of many brilliant charms. The rivers will be tormented and turned from their primitive courses, the hills will be leveled with the swamps and perhaps the swamp will have become a mount ... The deer may exist nowhere, fish will no longer abound in the rivers, the eagle scarce ever alight, and the millions of lovely songsters be driven away or slain by man." Audubon predicted, in 1943, the near extermination of the buffalo - having witnessed the disappearance of the great auk.

But here we are, 150 years or so later, still debating what conservation is, or does, or means. Too many Americans don't even recognize conservation, or agree on how to define it. Audubon's contribution was to help make the human exploiters of this land recognize the usefulness and the simple beauty of wild animals, birds and natural wild areas.

A half-century ago, conservation efforts were directed at saving this animal or that grove of trees or some species of bird. Today, that approach is clearly not good enough. It's now necessary to understand the complexities of the existence of any living thing - its ecology, and to preserve. To preserve large enough areas of wilderness itself.

In the past, man has brought to extinction hundreds of living things - directly or through misguided and clumsy efforts at predator control. We cannot afford to take such chances any longer. There is no more time left; no retreat from ineptness. If we are to save anything - anything at all - it must be done now.

Face it: There's a large mammal facing the consequences of indifference, ineptness, carelessness and greed. You.

Are you interested enough to do something about it? Wanna be preserved?

Field notes: It's been quite a few weeks for birds in Jackson Hole. An apparent "fall-out" of song birds occurred. A "fall-out" is a term given to an incident in which out-of-range (or time) species show up unexpectedly and perhaps unprecedentedly in some locations. Often weather systems are believed to be the triggering event, provoking the odd wind currents or overwhelming energy. Storms during migration periods are often indicated ... a hurricane, for example, can bring ocean birds far inland.

In the past weeks, John and Edna Good found a black-throated gray warbler in lower Curtis Canyon and Dale Gentry and Mike Windsor have reported singing ovenbird, yellow-breasted chat, mockingbird and a Lewis woodpecker in the vicinity of the main parking area of the Kelly campus of Teton Science Schools. Out of range or most exceptional. Might be more such interesting birds around; look around, please.

Of course while looking for unusual birds, do take note of all the young birds just out of their nests: ravens (Angus Thuermer) mountain bluebirds (Phyllis Greene and her merry band of volunteers), pine siskins, robins, Cassin's finches, house finches, Brewer's blackbirds, and on and on.

Cottonwood trees are showing how they earned their common name. Lilacs are about over (ours froze). Sticky geranium, blue flax, wild rose, scarlet gilia are prominently in bloom. So are some plants we recognize as pesky weeds: butter and eggs, ox-eye daisy for example.

Summer.

© Bert Raynes 2007

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Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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