LCI is excited to be co-hosting the Grand Canyon Semester for Fall 2014 with NAU’s Honors Program and Grand Canyon National Park. The GCS students are kindly providing blog updates of their activities this fall so that we can live vicariously through their experiences– hooray!
Land Management (by René, Maddie, and RobinLi)
This week’s module of Land Management continued to tie together previous modules, as well as introduce the concepts for next week. In learning about land management we came to realize just how many factors come into play when determining how to manage public lands. There are ranchers, environmentalists, cultural groups, conservationists, hunters, and recreational users to take into consideration, all of whom have stakes in public land. Last week’s module of biodiversity impacted our perceptions and observations as we performed research in meadows heavily grazing by bison on the North Rim of Grand Canyon, explored the slowly regenerating remains of the Warm Fire, and watched California Condors glide along the Vermillion Cliffs. In this way we found our knowledge from previous models allowing us to build and make various connections through our discussions of Land Management.
We began the trip on Thursday by heading to Kane Ranch, where we had a panoramic view of the Vermillion and Echo Cliffs from the front porch. On Friday we teamed up with a Conservation Biology class from Northern Arizona University to observe the effects of the introduced, non-native bison herd grazing on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. A team of wildlife biologists from Grand Canyon National Park met up with the combined group of almost 40 students, and we split up to begin recording the data we were set to observe.
We all managed to complete three different transects that day, beginning in a field with mild bison impacts, and finishing in a field with more extreme impacts from bison grazing. We learned that the bison on the North Rim are currently leaving heavy impacts on the land that they are grazing, from the soil, to plant dispersal, and an increased appearance of invasive species. This research is now going to be used by Grand Canyon National Park as a resource for their decision process in determining how to solve the issue of the bison in the park and depleting resources.
Beyond the fact that once again we were able to spend class time in a beautiful place, this time being in large meadows lined with forests flecked with gold from the aspen’s changing leaves, we also were able to be a part of research that is going to have a significant impact on the future of the North Rim at Grand Canyon. As we said goodbye to the park biologists and the Conservation Biology students, our faces pink from the sun and our stomachs yearning for the famous cookies and milkshakes awaiting us at Jacob Lake’s Inn, our laughs and stories once again reinforced our appreciation for these experiences where we find ourselves literally immersed in science.
Growing up in a ponderosa pine forest makes you well aware of what is known as the ‘fire season’ right before the monsoons in the summer time. For as long as I can remember it has just been a part of living in the area, but in the recent years a change has been occurring. The fires have been becoming more intense, and more destructive, to humans and the natural world alike. These fires can be started either naturally through a lightning strike or human caused, either purposefully or accidentally. What happens after that, is where the destruction lies.
In the year 2010, there was a large fire that started in Schultz Pass between mount Elden and the San Francisco Peaks. The fire burned all over the east part of the peaks, destroying the ecosystem, threatened many firefighter’s lives as well as many homes in the area. Due to decades of fire suppression, the fire had an abundance of fuel allowing it to burn hot as well as burn for a long time. When the fire was put out, one could see all the dead trees and the ash laden ground, but one did not expect for the destruction to continue. But right after the fire was put out, Flagstaff got one of its heaviest monsoon seasons on record, flushing down dirt, rock, dead trees, and gallons upon gallons of water, down into the unsuspecting community.
Although this fire happened in the Flagstaff area, the intensity and destruction that followed can be modeled with most of the fires we have seen since the decades of fire suppression. When we were looking at the Warm fire aftermath, which was a fire that happened on the Kaibab Plateau on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 2006, we could see the lack of soil, the dead trees, the invasive species creeping in and taking over, the overall change in the ecology of the area. This scares me, as a resident and as an environmentalist. Could this forest come back to its original pine forest glory, could its resiliency continue into the future of changing climate? Unfortunately all these questions left unanswered.
During our field trip at Kane Ranch, we were able to meet with Ethan Aumack who works for the Grand Canyon Trust. He took us up to the fire site and was able to talk to us about these future questions, contemporary policy and asked us about how we would approach it and why it needs protection. Of course there are many suggestions we came up with, but there was always one party that wouldn’t be satisfied with the result. When we went back to the ranch, we had a group discussion about land management and how to approach it. We discussed 4FRI, the Confluence, Black Mesa Coal Mine, and conservation in a general. The common theme we found that had success was collaboration– bring stakeholders together and focus on the goal, then go from there. As a resident and citizen of the world, I am a stakeholder. I want a place at the table to help decide how we can create solutions to create a healthier community and a balanced ecosystem more resistant to the changes climate change will bring. The future is what we need to think about, the world we love today we want our children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy. We want clean air, open spaces, clean water, natural waterfalls, thriving soil, and all those creatures that inhabit this beautiful planet to continue on. Being a mother, I think about this every day. Even as I type my daughter is rolling on the bed next to me, screaming (literally) for attention and acknowledgment. I think about her future, and what I want that to look like, and how to get it there. I think about what needs to be done to make sure she can live life to the fullest and experience the natural world as all people should. Land management and collaboration I feel is that way, but getting to the right management will take time, and take the right minds coming together to create that solution.
Peyton’s contribution: es3c566v AWGGG`
“Communication is key.” You’ve probably heard this cliché idiom uttered countless times, and when asked how to handle complex interpersonal situations this is likely the first catchy phrase that comes to mind. Humor me for a moment and consider just how “key” communication is — in your personal life, but also in a greater sense. Consider all the social ills that could be cured through effective communication and understanding. Studying land management this past week has provided a thorough reminder of just how vital participatory communication is, especially regarding the use of resources.
California Condors went extinct in the wild in the 1980s. Conservationists captured the last few before they went extinct and held them in captivity in an attempt to restore the population. California Condor recovery has been in the works ever since, and there are currently multiple recovery sites that have seen small amounts of success over the past few years. On Saturday we spoke with Chris Parish of the Peregrine Fund who explained the recovery process. We discussed how the biggest obstacle in restoring condor populations now is their high mortality rate in relation to their low reproduction rate. The most common cause of death for condors is lead poisoning, which occurs when they feed upon the abandon carcasses of game shot with lead bullets, and Parish surmises that deaths have been occurring so frequently lately because hunters continue to use lead bullets.
The solution seems simple: stop the use of lead bullets. But doing so is not as easy as asking politely and having faith that people care about majestic condors as much as you do. Aside from all of his facts and figures about condor population restoration, Parish introduced us to important concepts in the management side of his position. As a self-proclaimed “redneck conservationist” he spends his life attempting to bridge the gap between hunters and environmentalists, which seems only appropriate as he is both. Through relating to hunters and explaining that he is on their side and that he believes in what they are doing but merely hopes they could use a different means, Parish is able to convince them to use alternative bullets. The simple switch from lead to copper has such a small impact on hunters while allowing potentially positive impacts on an entire species of scavenger, no hostile confrontation needed.
This concept of finding common ground with adversaries and building arguments from there stirred up a lengthy pre-dinner discussion in the group that evening during which we made connections to an in-class lesson from earlier in the week. We determined that through communicating ultimate goals to one another rather than remaining attached to specific ideas for how to achieve them, people have more opportunities for collaboration and cooperation.
Realizing the importance of communication regarding land management during this module provided us the perfect segue into next week’s theme involving coal and uranium mining.