Our Not-so-wild National Forests (Earth Whispers – Part 4) by Janine Donoho

Skewed use of our forest lands

Skewed use of our forest lands

Shinrin-yok (森林浴) in Japan and China and Sanlimyok (산림욕) in Korea offer the gift of ‘forest bathing.’ As you breathe in the mercurial essences of wood oils, you also experience the soothing effects that decrease hormones associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Visiting forested spaces reduces negative emotions, too. Plus walks in natural spaces foster the healing powers of deep sleep. Really.

Grazing exotic species for all

Grazing exotic species for all

Degraded intermittent creek

Degraded intermittent creek

What gold mining looks like

What gold mining looks like

As epicenters for land uses such as logging, mining, grazing, and poaching, our national forests offer anything but that experience. From 1789’s Bill of Rights forward, the intent of law to protect our commons has been bent, spindled, and mutilated to the economic benefit of the few. Now our degraded national forests have become less a place to nurture and appreciate our natural world, and more of a bonanza for Takers intent on financial gain from our public lands. Over the last thirty years, that devastation has escalated.

What the Takers leave behind

What the Takers leave behind

Here in the Okanogan National Forest where I hike every other day, if you’re an international gold mine such as Crown Resources Corporation’s Buckhorn Mine, you can count on taxpayer dollars to help build the equivalent of a superhighway through national forest lands to enable your lucrative extraction, even as you mine and pollute our limited freshwater to do so. The same occurred during the heights of logging.

Exudate from Buckhorn Mine

Exudate from Buckhorn Mine

Coyote dragged to death by stupid humans

Coyote dragged to death by stupid humans

If you’re a poacher, you can count on reduced funding to our forestry and wildlife services. Lack of personnel shrinks your chances of being held responsible for your year-round illegal acts of hunting bear with dogs, killing protected species, and further degrading the public lands for your own gains.

If you’re a cattle owner, you can graze your exotic species in our public lands, spread exotic weeds from their feces, and not be held responsible in any way for mitigating your destruction of intermittent creeks even as you benefit financially. Perhaps worse yet, our apex predators, necessary and native to our forest lands, become the villain, since they prey on your literal cash cow.

Yes to exotic species

Yes to exotic species

So let’s up our game on this. Our national forests belong to all of us. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and return these commons to a level of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy that benefits all but the Takers. That means getting political, too.

Open the road to joy

What are you doing to conserve the commons that are our national forests? How do you plan to proceed in restoring our national commons to all of us?

Doe through the trees

Doe through the trees

Twitterpated with Wild Turkey by Janine Donoho

Flock of wild toms

Flock of wild toms

During our nearly 200 hikes yearly, we revel in seasonal birdlife, although twitterpated spring and wildcare summer offer choicest viewing times. As avian couples woo and mate, then raise their young, you glimpse variations on parenting themes. For wild turkeys, commitment shy toms have all the fun while hens band together to raise their broods.

Full plumage tom

Full plumage tom

Treed tom

Treed tom

A slow-mo hike along an old logging road in Okanogan National Forest with our fourteen pound predator, otherwise known as Mighty Italian Greyhound (MIGgy), prompts spontaneous flushing of a Meleagris gallopavo from the underbrush. As often happens, this wild tom exceeds cartoonish expectations by being quick on the wing, cunning, and beautifully feathered in iridescent bronzes and greens with the hallmark scaled legs and wattle reminiscent of its reptilian ancestors. Its verbal complaint while flying resembles gobbled outrage rather than the silly preschool sound human throats make. Once the tom alights on a ponderosa pine branch, MIGgy takes a victory lap. Wild turkeys protecting their territory can be aggressive. Who can blame them when so many end up on dinner tables? So give the hound a nod.

Why does the turkey cross the logging road? It’s all about food, water, and shelter. Like us, turkeys appreciate the finer things in life. For our local populations that means established ponderosa forests, where turkeys feast upon seeds and fruits along with occasional insects and a chaser of grit—yum! Hens hollow out ground nests in debris at bases of trees and shrubs, but roost on higher limbs due to rapacious coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, raptors, and—yes, us. They’re also one of this nation’s few conservation success stories, returning from populations of 30,000 birds in the early 1900s to over 7,000,000 today. Evidently the idea of facing an empty Thanksgiving platter roused our national fervor to deal with habitat degradation and poaching.

Wild thing, I think I love ya...

Wild thing, I think I love ya…

With their dense bone structure, turkey fossil records date back to over 5,000,000 years ago. Undomesticated birds are no more like their meal-on-the-talon version than cows are like fierce and extinct aurochs. Today we incapacitate domesticated turkeys by favoring massive breasts that overbalance the poor beasties—and no, we’re talking meaty breasts versus silicon here. This trend began five hundred years ago, spreading to a global phenomenon when Spaniards made off with turkeys domesticated by Aztecs. The bird’s eponymous name may originate from early transport through Turkey on their way to Europe.

Wily tom heading for deep cover

So today, up with turkeys. Yes, call me twitterpated.

Turkey hens & brood

Turkey hens & brood

What local birds raise your spirits? How do you enhance their habitat?

There and Back Again by Janine Donoho

Mt. Rainier across the Sound

Mt. Rainier across the Sound

Over the Puget Sound and whitewater rivers—through coastal woods morphing into inland forests, we traveled home to the Okanogan Highlands—and temperatures in the teens. Brrr. Tears were shed as we left behind our temporary pack, lifelong friends and family.

Gazzam Park with Pack

Gazzam Park with Pack

Urban amenities I miss:

  • pumpkin yogurt and Sawatdy Thai cuisine,
  • the Bainbridge Athletic Club, and
  • Gazzam Park’s needle strewn trails.

What I embrace instead:

  • frozen mango sorbet,
  • my elliptical and rowing machines, and
  • Okanogan National Forest.
Okanogan Forest

Okanogan Forest

Evidently both ambivalence and resilience describe me. Now I’m bending my mind around edits to SOUNDINGS, Water Elemental, along with other authorial tasks. Winter cave time approaches as flames crackle in the soapstone fireplace and Nina Sophia, Italian greyhound extraordinaire, stretches out on the rug with a sigh.

Iggy basking

Iggy basking

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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