Ranger Kathryn's Arches

February 28, 2012

Fresh faces, fresh ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:06 pm
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From my front door: Sun bursts through at day's end after snowstorm. Unretouched colors. Four vehicles in ranger housing means people are coming back!

It’s that magical time of year when new seasonal staff arrive at parks around here. After the halcyon days of winter, where the few remaining rangers begin to be able to finish one another’s sentences or (heaven forbid) think one another’s thoughts, the influx of new blood is welcomed. They bring with them new ideas, new perspectives, new ways of seeing the too-familiar. Even if it’s only directions to find our bathrooms outside, it’s refreshing.

This winter I was delegated the responsibility to interview and hire our three student interns supplied by the Student Conservation Association. My boss did the same for the seasonal park rangers. Together we tried to select people we thought would not only do a good job, but would adapt well to an isolated living/working situation and who would complement the mix of staff already here. With a clan as small as ours, it takes only one bad apple to make things miserable for us all; we ask candidates lots of questions to try to get a whole picture of who they are and how they’ll fit.

And now they’re here. It looks to be a particularly engaging, intelligent, passionate, well-fitting group with lots of energy. My next use of the word “halcyon” to describe our days here may be nine months hence…

February 19, 2012

Do we save, or spend, wilderness?

“The Doll House” formation sits atop a 1000-foot cliff in the Maze District. 11/2/11. Few people get to see this extravagantly wild area.

 

“All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” 

This quote by Aldo Leopold is a bit disconcerting. I have nothing but deep respect for this man who did more to shape environmental ethics in the 20th century than nearly anyone else, but it is my sincere hope that we can protect our wild places without ruining them.

There is a corner of Canyonlands National Park, the Maze District, that is about as wild and inhospitable as anywhere in the lower 48 states. No paved roads exist; access is by high-clearance 4WD, horseback, or backpacking. The only way I was ever able to set foot there was via a raft trip on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. It is so remote, so isolated, that outlaws such as Butch Cassidy used the area in the late 19th century to hide out from the authorities after robbing a bank or payroll train. There really is nowhere quite like it, and I tremble to think what a loss it would be if that place were fondled to death as Mr Leopold surmises.

Sunrise, the Maze District — from Cataract Canyon of the Colorado River

Do you agree or disagree with this quote? Is Leopold’s premise necessarily true? If so, should we bother setting aside untrammeled areas?

January 14, 2012

What we refuse to destroy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:50 pm
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January sunset, Sand Flats Recreation Area, Moab, UT

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but what we refuse to destroy.”   — John Sawhill

I’ve been thinking about this quote for a couple of days. Every time we cut down forest for development, drain marshland for a new neighborhood, or pave a parking lot instead of leaving green space, we are destroying something that is difficult or impossible to reclaim. When I found Canyonlands National Park on Lonely Planet’s list, “The World’s Most Surreal Landscapes,” my heart jumped for joy. Others realize what a unique and stunning location this is. By managing wilderness as responsibly as we can, we are preserving it unimpaired for generations to come. Thank you for lifting your voice, or your pen, or your checkbook, in support of wilderness. It is my hope that you will visit a wild place at the soonest opportunity. Your soul will benefit.

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