©Bert Gildart: Small town politics invariably make for interesting gatherings, but sometimes they’re not always so pleasant. Last night was a case in point. Subject of the meeting concerned our Lower Riverside community, which is essentially a farming community, and whether or not it should be zoned.
Janie and I missed the meeting that prompted the assemblage. Apparently, this winter one man wanted to convert the farm land he owned into what he called a boat storage area, but which most interpreted as being a marina. Many were afraid the introduction of a business into our part of the valley would forever alter the area’s complexion. So many opposed the concept that the developer withdrew his proposal; instead, he is now turning the land into a housing development.
Most know that Janie and I abhor any kind of growth, but we are also realistic and realize that with our country growing from unchecked illegal immigration and from procreation that, sadly, we are seeing the end of the rural style of life.
To protect what’s left, many believe there should be zoning, but that flies in the face of local farmers, most who have managed their land for generations in a fashion that is exemplary. They feel they should be able to determine the ultimate disposition of their land, and we sympathize. On the other hand, we also understand the concerns of those who want to safeguard their own investment. They want assurance that when large chunks of land are sold, that they won’t have a pig pen, a gravel pit, a race track… cropping up next to them.
By evening’s end, however, it was concluded zoning would not work for this group, and whether or not that is a good or bad thing, only perception can really say.
In the meantime, other more uplifting things are happening. Right now Flathead Valley and areas, too, along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier Park, are dense with clusters of small white flowers known as the choke cherry. In late summer once Indians would collect the resulting berries to help produce pemmican. To make it Indians (and fur trappers as well) would mix dried buffalo meat and fat with berries from the choke cherry plant. Some tribes such as the Metis even sold the product to the fur trading companies.
As such, pemmican is a highly nutritious food that did not spoil and was compact and easy to carry on long trips. It was the first instant food in Canada, and one pound of pemmican was said to be equal in food value to four pounds of fresh meat. In part, it was because of the choke cherry.
Yet another flower now blooming in the valley is the lady slipper orchid, and this one is growing in a place pointed out to me by a park botanist. I promised not to disclose the specific location, but will say you can find this beautiful flower in boggy areas.
Both images were made in low light situations, and to “stop down” the aperture to improve depth of field–and not introduce camera shake–I had to use strobes. I used two strobes, one on the camera the other held high overhead. To create the dark background, I set the camera to “manual” and then the shutter speed to a value that would so completely overpower existing daylight that the background would go black and so make the flowers pop out.
Once again people are looking to the Arctic Refuge as a source of oil. And, once again some are using erroneous information that they’ve picked up to promote their notion. They say, “Well, look at the Central Caribou herd. It’s doing OK!”
This herd is the one seen around Prudhoe, but there is a vast difference in geography between that area and the calving grounds sought out by the Porcupine Caribou herd in the Arctic Refuge.
Because the Brooks Range makes a huge sweep to the south, the Central Caribou herd has well over 100 miles in which to roam and give birth, but not so the Porcupine herd. Here, the Brooks Range is separated from the Arctic Ocean by a distance of only 15 miles. Most biologists not employed by oil companies say that drilling in the refuge in such a confined area would devastate the Porcupine herd. So what we have to decide is how badly we need oil. Do we take the chance that we might destroy what is in reality the world’s last self-regulating natural ecosystem? Does this current surge in oil prices represent but a bubble that will break once a the current administration is replaced with one that is more ecologically sensitive?
And that will happen regardless of whether our next president is a Republican or a Democrat!
Whatever we do should be based on facts that are real and not those manufactured by certain CEOs or by a man from Texas who attempts to push opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge every time he presides over a national press conference.
How do Janie and I have such facts on the tips of our tongues? We do because we once hiked the entire length of the Refuge and because the Wilderness Society flew me over the refuge and over Prudhoe as a photographer. We taught school in the early 1990s in a number of Gwich’in Indian villages located immediately adjacent to the refuge.
You can see more of these images if you log onto our Gwich’in Page. You can also read one of my stories (Christian Science Monitor ) about the determination of the Gwich’in Indian People to prevent what they believe would be a real travesty.