Friday, March 30, 2012

"Wild in the City" Is Coming to WILD READ Beginning April 15

Following the thread of urban conservation, we will move the discussion to a refreshing new book out of Portland, Oregon, titled Wild in the City: Exploring The Intertwine.  It's a "go-to" and "how-to" book focused on the intersection of the built and natural environments of our cities.  A brilliantly lively format brings together geography, natural history, recreation, art, and stories of place, all expressing the spirit of the people who live there.

We feel this topic is well-timed as we can't help noticing that spring is bursting out around us outdoors, and it will no doubt inspire the conversation.  We're looking forward to hearing about the wild in your city.

For this month's WILD READ, we are honored to host three guest moderators.  They are the editors of Wild in the City:

Mike Houck, Director,
Urban Greenspaces Institute
Mike founded and has been executive director of the Urban Greenspaces Institute since 1999. He has been a leader in the Portland metropolitan region's urban park and greenspace issues starting with his founding of the Urban Naturalist Program at the Audubon Society of Portland in 1980. In 1994, Mike co-founded the Coalition for a Livable Future , to foster better integration of social and environmental issues in local planning and the region's growth management strategies. Mike is recognized locally, nationally and internationally for his contributions to urban greenspace planning. Currently, he sits on the board of directors for The Intertwine Alliance and serves on the Alliance's core planning group. He was appointed in 2010 to the City of Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission. In 2000, he co-edited with M.J. Cody the first edition of Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas. He also co-edited The Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology in 2011.

M.J. Cody, Chair
Urban Greenspaces Institute Board of Directors
M.J. is an Oregon native who grew up in Estacada on the Clackamas River where "green" was not a concept but a certainty.  After thirteen years in L.A. writing for television, she returned to Oregon with a fervent understanding of the need for wildness in a city. As an eloquent advocate for the importance of protecting the natural beauty of Oregon's rural landscape from urban sprawl, she has produced two audio driving tour CDs.  
M.J. is the  author of Our Portland, a coffee table style book, with photographer Rick Schafer (Voyageur Press). She is a regular contributor to Portland's newspaper, The Oregonian, with her column on lodging in the Travel Section titled, "Sleeping Around the Northwest." She also writes features for several magazines including NW Palate Magazine, Travel Oregon, Horizon Air, Audubon Magazine, and other publications.  She is the Chair of Urban Greenspaces Institute, and also is the co-editor with Mike Houck of the first edition of Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas. 

Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director
Audubon Society of Portland
 Bob Sallinger has worked for Audubon Society of Portland since 1992 and currently serves as the Society's conservation director. His responsibilities include directing Audubon's local, regional, and national conservation policy initiatives; citizen science and wildlife research initiatives; the Living with Urban Wildlife Program; the Backyard Habitat Certification Program; and the Wildlife Care Center Program.      
Bob’s passion for conservation was developed early exploring the woods of Massachusetts and later on solo hikes from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail and from Canada to New Mexico on the Continental Divide.
Bob has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School. He currently serves on the Portland Parks Board and the Board of Directors for the Coalition for a Livable Future and is an elected director for the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District. He lives in Northeast Portland with his wife Elisabeth Neely, two children, a dog, cat, goats and chickens.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Farewell and Thanks! by Moderator John Hartig

Discussion Topic: Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban-Industrial Rivers That Caught Fire

It has been a real honor to be a moderator on America’s Wild Read and I want to thank Anne Post, Sarah Gannon Nagle, Nancy Pollot, and the rest of the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) staff and Friends of NCTC for giving me this opportunity.  I would also like to thank everyone who participated for enriching the discussions and for helping raise awareness of this topic and the importance of urban conservation.  I firmly believe that with the scientific capacity in the academic, private, and public sectors, and in the passion of the environmental, conservation, and sustainability nongovernmental organizations, we have the capability to avoid the next “tipping point.”  But can we come together and learn to live sustainably in time?  It will not be easy and will take everyone working together. 

Urban areas are unique because that is clearly where the environmental, natural resource, and human population problems are manifested most, and yet that is where, I believe, we have the greatest potential to solve these problems if we have the heart and commitment to learn to live sustainably.  We need the scientific community, the public sector, the business sector, the nongovernmental sector, and others to come together synergistically to educate, inform, inspire, and lead us to a more sustainable future.  Knowledge and broad-based education will be essential. 

As noted in my third post on February 25th, we will need provocateurs, incrementalists, and sustainability entrepreneurs doing their parts, and for leaders to be nurtured and developed.  But I believe that education is the key. 

We will need cooperative learning that results in an environmentally-conscious citizenry.  No one person, organization, institution, or agency has all the answers.  Answers and solutions will arise out of a cooperative learning process that involves stakeholders learning and working together to accomplish the common goal of sustainability, under conditions that involve positive interdependence and individual and group accountability.  Such cooperative learning is essential to educate and inspire people to: understand problems, causes, and ramifications; address carrying capacity; protect the environment; foster a conservation ethic; ensure environmentally-sustainable economic development; avoid the next “tipping point;” and live sustainably. 

Our discussions have been a perfect segue into Wild Read’s next book which is Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine, co-edited by Mike Houck and M.J. Cody. The discussion begins April 15 with the first posted narrative from one of the editors.  I encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and keep up the discussion of urban conservation in the exploration of Portland’s and Vancouver’s wonderful network of parks, trails, and natural areas.  here is the tentative discussion schedule:

Week 1:  MJ Cody leads the conversation with Mike Houck and Bob Sallinger chiming in:  Introduction: How Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas (earlier edition) came to be and the evolution to Wild in the City: Exploring The Intertwine.  Discussions will center around the evolution of the Urban Naturalist Program at the Audubon Society of Portland during the 1980s, the Urban Naturalist publication and the philosophy behind both entities. And ultimately how all lead to the publication of  Wild in the City: Exploring The Intertwine.

Week 2: Mike Houck takes the lead to explain about The Intertwine and The Intertwine Alliance and the relationship to the Metropolitan Greenspaces Alliance (Chicago Wilderness, Houston Wilderness, et al) and the national interest of nature in the city, tying into Richard Louv's work; Tim Beatley; etc

Week 3: Bob Sallinger focuses on Living With Urban Wildlife and the approaches he and others have taken to co-exist with urban wildlife

Week 4: Mike Houck and Bob Sallinger  focus on green infrastructure, ecosystem services and other means towards the next frontier in integrating natural and built environments.

Thanks and please don’t stop sharing your passion!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank you Dr. John Hartig!

Thank you John for leading such a lively and interesting discussion about urban conservation and the topic of "burning rivers."  Your leadership at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and your vision of the best way forward surely instills hope and a good measure of courage as we continue on this conservation path.

WILD READ conversations continue from any of the discussion threads with the possibility that any previous author or moderator might continue to join the fray.  So, stay engaged, thoughtful and share your ideas.

We will take a short "holiday" and beginning April 15 we will feature the following WILD READ book:

Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine; edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody, "a lively collection of essays, wonderful sites, and rambles to experience nature nearby [Portland, OR], and narratives on efforts to better integrate the built and natural environments." The WILD READ team selected this title, now in its second edition, because it exemplifies how a book that specifically addresses the intersect between concrete and "green" in any given urban place can express and subsequently teach the "philosophy that nature does not only belong in the city, but is also essential to creating and sustaining our quality of life in this splendid place."

Watch for more information about this WILD READ!  If you need a copy, go here to see which library near you has a copy to lend.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Next Generation of Conservationists by Moderator John Hartig

Sharing nature with children at
 Detroit  River International Wildlife Refuge

(photo credit: B. Ziegler)
[Discussion Topic: Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban-Industrial Rivers That Caught Fire]

Where will the next generation of conservationists come from?   Undoubtedly, most will come from urban areas because that is where most people will be living.  In addition, U.S. children are spending less and less time outdoors and nature-based recreation is, in general, declining.  

John Hartig

We clearly have a challenge.  We need to bring conservation to urban areas.  

That is what is so exciting to me about working in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge that has nearly seven million people living within a 45-minute drive.  First, the very place the Rouge River caught on fire in 1969 is now located within the acquisition boundary of the Refuge.  What a story that the lower Rouge River has gone from burning river to being part of North America’s only international wildlife refuge.  Secondly, the Detroit River, like the burning rivers, has a reputation of being a polluted river in the “Rust Belt.”  However, much like the burning rivers, the Detroit River has experienced substantial environmental improvement that has laid the foundation for one of the most remarkable ecological recovery stories in North America.  The Detroit River has seen the return of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, and burrowing mayflies right in the automobile capitals of the U.S. and Canada, and in this almost seven million person major metropolitan area.  However, as we all know much remains to be done to fully restore the integrity of the river.  But what a revival story and what an opportunity to reach and teach the next generation of conservationists!

Urban areas are definitely unique places and ones that most biologists and conservationists have historically shied away from.  However, that is where most of the people are and where we can have a significant impact in developing the next generation of conservationists.  Urban areas also provide unique opportunities for partnerships and to leverage resources for conservation.  Indeed, that is precisely what is happening at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge that has worked with over 200 organizations and leveraged over $33 million for conservation projects in its first ten years.  As a result of its work in public-private partnerships for conservation, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was singled out at the 2005 White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation as a model and national leader in building and sustaining partnerships with corporations, nonprofit organizations, conservation groups, communities, and foundations.

We need urban refuges and urban conservation initiatives to bring nature into places where people live and to make nature experiences part of everyday life.  That is why it is so exciting to see how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established, through its new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System called “Conserving the Future,” an Urban Refuge Initiative that defines excellence in existing urban refuges, establishes a framework for creating new urban refuge partnerships, and implements a refuge presence in 10 demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015.  I encourage you to learn about this new Urban Refuge Initiative and help make it a success.

Conservation in urban areas is not a question about the amount and uniqueness of natural resources, it is a question about making nature experiences part of everyday urban life to help develop a conservation ethic.  Really, it is a question of human heart.  

What are the most important things we need to do bring conservation to urban areas?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Changing Public Perception of Burning Rivers by Moderator John Hartig

Discussion Topic: Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban-Industrial Rivers That Caught Fire

There is no doubt that there has been a change in the perception of and attitude toward these four historically burning rivers. The perception of and attitude toward these four rivers have changed from ones of merely being working rivers that support of commerce and industry, and being polluted rivers in the Rust Belt, to ones of ecological and community assets that provide many beneficial uses that enhance quality of life.

With the environmental improvements seen to date in these four rivers and the evidence of ecological revival, watershed stakeholders gradually began to envision more natural, restored rivers with recreational use.  Simply put, watershed stakeholders began to envision these rivers as quality of life assets and recognized that they personally were part of these ecosystems and what they did to these ecosystems they did to themselves.  In the case of the Chicago River, citizens and organizations created an innovative initiative called Chicago Wilderness that brought people together to celebrate and protect their unique natural capital and make it a source of community pride.

Chicago Wilderness is an alliance of over 230 public and private organizations that promotes the integration of nature and wildlife into the places where people live, and makes natural experiences part of everyday life.  In the case of the Cuyahoga River, citizens and organizations lobbied to become one of 14 American Heritage Rivers that provided national recognition and enhanced community pride.  American Heritage Rivers promote environmental stewardship, encourage environmentally-sustainable economic development, and celebrate history.  In the case of the Rouge River, the lower river was designated part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge – North America’s only International Wildlife Refuge.  This helped raise public awareness of the environmental improvements and subsequent ecological recovery, and helped enhance community pride throughout the region.  It also helped support additional restoration work needed to meet long-term goals.

Oil pollution on the Buffalo River in 1967 (photo credit: Buffalo State College Courier-Express Collection)
Again, knowledge and attitude about these four urban rivers have changed.  Just think that at one time river fires and gross oil pollution were viewed merely as the cost of doing business.  Today, urban riverfronts are seen as magical places where the water meets the land and people can reconnect with their watershed ecosystem.  Clearly, during the second industrial revolution most communities made rivers their backdoor.  Simply put, we need to look at rivers, not away from them.  We need public access to reconnect people to rivers.  Experience has shown that creating waterfront vistas, reintroducing watershed residents to river history and geography, establishing unique conservation places linked by greenways and blueways (i.e. canoe and kayak trails), promoting ecotourism, and championing green developments founded on a “sense of place” build the political base for watershed preservation and restoration.

Current public use along the Buffalo River (photo credit: Bill Jedlicka)
We also need to continue to: develop river champions to sustain these locally-driven, watershed processes; invest in watershed management as a priority; and increase broad-based education on how to become a conserver society and live sustainably.  As a society, our next great challenge will be to learn to live sustainably. 

What do you think it will take for us as a society to learn to live sustainably in urban areas? 

What can we do as a society to better take advantage of this changing perception of urban rivers to meet the sustainability challenge in urban areas?