Posts Tagged ‘old growth forests’

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

July 22nd, 2013

How A Man Made Reservoir Created A Wilderness

Short Biography of James Hunt

James Hunt has been an environmental and fine art photographer in Worcester, Massachusetts for about 12 years. He graduated from the professional photography program at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts. You can see more of his photography at jameshuntphotography.com and read his blog at jameshuntphotography.wordpress.com. James Hunt’s photography has been exhibited a number of times including in a show called, “Boston’s Water, Quabbin Memories” at the Jewish Community Center of Worcester, Massachusetts, a major venue in New England’s second largest city. His photographs have been involved in significant projects on urban trees and parks. James wrote, “My work explores the link between human needs and their actions in relation to the natural environment. In particular, I’m interested in the experience of ‘being there’ in the natural or man-made environment.” James is also an award winning associate professor of management at Babson College where he has chaired his department, teaches leadership, organizational behavior and most recently, sustainability. He designed and co-founded Babson’s Coaching Inside the Organization Program at Babson Executive Education and also co-founded and co-Faculty Directed Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. Babson College is one of the top colleges for entrepreneurship in the world.

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

The Bridge at Gate 30. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness. Dana.

The Bridge at Gate 30 Near Dana, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness.

Philip Hyde typically opposed building dams on rivers, but ironically in the case of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, the damming the Swift River has resulted in the kind of spirituality of place with important tangible and intangible benefits that he drew our attention to in his writings. I am grateful that I have had the chance to immerse myself in this story for the past six years and for the opportunity to share it here.

Seventy-five years ago this spring, four towns in the center of Massachusetts, ceased to exist by an act of the state legislature. The citizens of the farming towns of Enfield, Prescott, Greenwich and Dana were all put off their land for minimal compensation, to make way for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. Two large structures, the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike, along with several minor dams were erected to contain the three branches of the Swift River that flowed into the valley.

The Quabbin Reservoir that resulted is one of the largest on the East Coast of the United States covering 39 square miles with over 180 miles of shoreline. It provides fresh forest filtered water to two million residents of Greater Boston. In order to filter that water, the custodians of the Reservoir helped to create, an “accidental wilderness” by planting millions of trees. Soon, wildlife, which had largely disappeared from the valley returned in force: bear, turkeys, coyote, deer, moose, and a host of other species including Bald Eagles by the 1980s.

This development occurred in the larger context of widespread Farmland abandonment throughout the Northeast and into Quebec for economic reasons. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, thousands of square miles of what once had been fields were naturally reforested. These “new” forests were doing yeoman’s work in creating habitat and absorbing Carbon Dioxide. But, there is yet more to the story.

The Intangible Benefits Of Wilderness

As Philip Hyde probably would have appreciated, the intangible, spiritual benefits of this wilderness have become increasingly clear. To go there, just two hours from downtown Boston gives you the opportunity to be alone if that is your choice. However, you are not truly alone. The forest is there with you, and you know it. You can feel it. You can also feel the presence of those who were put off the land. Signs are everywhere, from the few remaining structures to numerous cellar holes, to strategically planted but ancient shade trees and the occasional broken dish or other artifact. It is relatively easy to walk for miles by yourself, but occasionally you do run into fellow travelers. Often it strikes me that these fellow travelers are seeking a kind of spiritual tranquility, like myself.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm and the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm with the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

It is of course not the spiritual nature of the place that protects it from development. Economic conditions are such that there is little commercial urge to develop the area. The over 38 square miles inside the Reservoir perimeter is protected by two state agencies Boston’s source of drinking water.  Only passive recreational activities are allowed inside the perimeter. That is not to say, however, that the Reservoir and the larger region do not face challenges. Commercial logging has supposedly only been allowed inside the Reservoir perimeter for the purposes of forest management, in other words, to protect the filtration of the water. However, much of the forested land outside that perimeter is private property.

Threats To The Quabbin Reservoir Wilderness

A brief bio fuels push a few years ago threatened the Quabbin and other forests of the area with aggressive wood harvesting until regulatory changes ceased to encourage the large scale burning of wood as an alternative fuel, at least in Massachusetts. Climate change is a significant concern however, as the forest must continually fight off a variety of invasive species that challenge the viability of the area as tolerable habitat for wildlife.

Over the past two years the Red Pine Trees planted at the creation of the Reservoir to provide a natural filtration system have been under attack from Red Pine needle scale. Pine needle scale has no known treatment and can decimate a stand of trees in just a few years. Bittersweet, the vine with which many of us in North America have become familiar, is visible everywhere. The evidence, though tentative, is growing for a direct relationship between climate change and the spread of such invasive species. Regardless, the message is clear: the tangible “wilderness” resource that emerged from the farmlands of the 1820s is fragile and its protection requires vigilance.

The intangible, spiritual benefits of the area are not widely known, except by the people of the towns surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir. Most people I ask in Boston do not even know where their water comes from. At least they did not know until a couple of years ago when there was a catastrophic leak along the tunnel that brings water into Boston necessitating a boil water order from the authorities. Suddenly the water could no longer be taken for granted. People then took notice, at least for a time.

The lessons from this story are complex. The Quabbin’s creation required the forced sacrifice of thousands of homes. It occurred, in that place on the Swift River, in large measure because those communities were without much political clout. The good news is that the Quabbin Reservoir and the resulting wilderness nourish body and mind, as well as even our, souls, if we so choose. It is an incredible resource now, but one that we cannot take for granted.

Nature Photography And The Quabbin

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

I began my photographic relationship with the Quabbin in 2008. The nature of that relationship evolved over time. Initially, I had thoughts of taking a documentary approach to the project but I found that somehow, I was not capturing that intangible quality that is so critical to understanding the Quabbin. Inspired by artists such as Philip Hyde, I have tried to create compelling artistic images that can communicate something of what it feels like to go there. Perhaps, if we can create art that gets people’s attention, we can inform at the same time. In that regard, I have two simple messages in my work on the Quabbin: First, people should be aware of where their water comes from, and second, I hope that through my work, people will become more aware of, and appreciate, the intrinsic values that other great photographers have portrayed so well.

What intrinsic values do you look for in connecting to a place in the “natural or man-made environment”?

Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area

August 15th, 2011

The Cascade Mountain Range, National Parks and Wilderness Areas Of The Northwestern U.S.

Mount Jefferson, Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, copyright 1959 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph large: “Mount Jefferson, Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades.”)

The Cascade Mountain Range, a string of volcanic peaks and vertically thrust rocky crags, runs from Northern California through Oregon and Washington and into Canada. Land battles in the 1950s and 1960s over the lush forests of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwestern United States, helped shape future strategy for wilderness conservation campaigns across the nation.

As the U. S. Forest Service and the timber industry, on one side, grabbed for more trees to mill, recreationists and environmentalists, on the other side, attempted to save their beloved woodlands, river valleys and rainforests from destruction. When enough public outcry supported the protection of an area, it became a National Park such as North Cascades or Olympic National Park. However, just obtaining wilderness status for many wild areas engendered a terrific political and often legal war.

The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area became one of the many controversies of the 1960s. Mount Jefferson is Oregon’s second highest peak (10,249 feet) behind Mount Hood (11,497) and not to be confused with the Mount Jefferson in Montana, or in Utah, or the mountain bearing Thomas Jefferson’s carved likeness in North Dakota. Mount Jefferson of the Central Oregon Cascades is surrounded by plentiful lakes, steep raging rivers and lush river valleys riddled with gold and silver mining claims, cattle grazing and thick stands of mixed conifer trees.

In 1959, after conferring on strategy and partial funding with David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Philip Hyde hired mountaineer and wilderness guide Fred Behm as a horse packing guide. Fred Behm led Ardis and Philip Hyde by horseback pack trip into the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area. Philip Hyde made photographs for use by the Sierra Club and local Oregon environmental groups working to attain permanent wilderness designation or national park status for the Jefferson Wilderness Area.

U.S. Forest Service’s Controversial Redrawing Of Cascades Wilderness Area Boundaries In The 1960s

Mount Jefferson Primitive Area, one of the largest in Oregon, formed in 1930. It stretched across the Deschutes, Mount Hood, and Willamette National Forests. Each of these National Forests helped manage the primitive area. Lumbering slowed significantly during the Great Depression, but took off again during and after World War II. In the Willamette National Forest, the volume of logs cut more than quadrupled between 1945 and 1955 and continued to increase for decades. The Forest Service began to reclassify many primitive areas as either multiple use or permanent wilderness without any input from locals. Frequented by hikers, fishers and small boaters, Mount Jefferson Primitive Area had some of the highest recreation levels of any wilderness in the Northwest, second in Oregon only to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south.

In his autobiography, In The Thick of It: My Life In The Sierra Club, Michael McCloskey wrote:

In the early 1960s, the Forest Service was using its administrative powers to decide how much land it wanted to put into its new wilderness system. Wilderness areas in this system would have carefully considered boundaries and would be permanently managed as wilderness, without roads or logging. In contrast, primitive areas, which had been set aside earlier under regulations of the 1920s, allowed some roads, had boundaries drawn with little study, and were only provisional in nature. In response to pressures to better protect primitive areas, the Forest Service had decided to either reclassify them as wilderness areas or to drop the provisional protection it had accorded them.

When reclassifying the Three Sisters Wilderness, the Forest Service dropped 53,000 acres from the wilderness area. After a 25 year struggle from grass roots activist groups and conservationists, Congress finally added 45,000 of these acres back into the Three Sisters Wilderness in 1978, part of which consisted of the west side of beautiful Waldo Lake.

U.S. Forest Service Preserves ‘Everything But The Trees’ In The Mount Jefferson Wilderness

The Mount Jefferson Primitive Area ran in a long, narrow strip along the spine of the Oregon Cascade Mountains with Mount Jefferson on the north end and a peak called Three Fingered Jack on the south. In the Oregon Cascade Mountains, most of the largest and thickest timber stands in the 1960s were below 3,500 feet in elevation. Unlike the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, the Mount Jefferson Primitive Area was mainly above 3,500 feet and did not contain as much valuable timber. Kevin R. Marsh explained in Drawing Lines In The Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas In the Pacific Northwest:

Since the crux of wilderness debates in the Northwest focused mainly on valleys below 3,500 feet, the creation of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area out of the old primitive area focused on whether to protect from logging some of the lower forests outside the original boundaries…. In 1963, the Forest Service agreed to expand the boundaries outward east and south, adding more acreage to the protected area, but it stopped short of including the forests of the western valleys. In fact, the new boundaries would reduce the protection offered… lower-elevation forests contained in the existing primitive area and open them up to the timber sale program. By 1962, as the debate over proposed new wilderness boundaries continued, the Forest Service built a road and sold timber deep into the Whitewater Valley, close to the boundary of the primitive area…. Increasingly, the attention from all sides focused on Wildlands outside the existing boundaries of formally protected areas: the “de facto wilderness.” The Mount Jefferson debates reflected this changing aspect of wilderness debates throughout the country after passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area has not garnered much attention from historians and others concerned with wilderness in the United States, but the Mount Jefferson debates are important because they demonstrate a new emphasis on de facto wilderness lands and on struggles over the definition of ‘wilderness.’… The Obsidians, a Eugene, Oregon hiking club, joined five other groups, including the Oregon Cascades Conservation Council, to submit a proposal to increase the size of the area…

Leapfrog Logging Keeps Old Growth Timber Wilderness In Reach Of Lumber Companies

Michael McCloskey acted as legal council and Sierra Club adviser to those working to prevent land from being cut out and removed from within the final wilderness area boundaries. In the process he carefully explored the periphery of the primitive area to see how suitable the old boundaries were. He identified the practice of “leapfrog logging,” the Forest Service tactic of trying to define future boundaries by building access roads right up to the original primitive area boundary while passing by large sections of untouched timber. The presence of the road and logging at the end of it, blocked the land from potentially being designated as wilderness. Environmentalists led by Michael McCloskey applied their own techniques to build a case for expanding the existing wilderness. Michael McCloskey described the method himself:

The technique involved sampling the core values of the area (via a backpacking trip, a horse pack trip, or an overflight); driving every road to the edge of the wilderness area; looking at every peripheral development; evaluating competing values and alternative uses of the resources found there…. People valued these areas for many reasons: to experience wild country, to see mountain scenery, to walk through old-growth forests, to hunt and fish in less crowded areas, and to simply get away from civilization.

Local Citizens Lead Grassroots Environmental Campaigns To Preserve Cascade Mountain Wilderness

People were willing to fight for these wilderness values. Kevin R. Marsh explained one reason why:

The Forest Service roads and clear cuts deep in the Whitewater Creek valley were powerful examples of why wilderness activists focused so much energy on codifying a wilderness system created and maintained by Congress. In the long run… the Wilderness Act resulted in a massive increase in the acreage of land protected as wilderness in the United States…. Following that mandate, the Forest Service reexamined the Mount Jefferson area, the first primitive area in the Cascades to undergo review under the requirements of the Wilderness Act. Expanding wilderness protection into more valuable, lower-elevation forests, however, carried too much additional cost to the industry…. The conservationists proposal would reduce the available timber supply to the local economy by eleven million board feet annually, Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield claimed, and ‘serious economic hardship  could result….’ To add the forested areas proposed by conservationists would result in the loss of six hundred jobs in the local economy, regional forester Herbert Stone claimed. As a result, the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, as approved by Congress in 1968, did not include the Whitewater Valley.

Even though the final boundaries of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area did not include the Whitewater Valley, conservationists did succeed in persuading Congress to include other expansion areas such as Marion Lake and a few other tracts of undisturbed forest.

To learn about how conservation strategy in the Cascade Mountains had national impact and to discover more on how Cascade Mountain wilderness battles helped environmentalists refine their message into the Wilderness Act see the blog post, “The Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation.” Also, discover more about the protection of the Cascades Mountains in blog posts to come, particularly the creation of North Cascades National Park and the protection of Glacier Peak Wilderness, both in the state of Washington.

Salmon In The Trees: Amy Gulick’s Conservation Photography

July 15th, 2010

A Profile Of Amy Gulick’s Work In Conservation Photography And An Announcement Of Her New Book… Salmon In The Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest

Amy Gulick Won the NANPA Philip Hyde Grant in 2008 for her work in the Tongass National Forest beginning in 2007.

(See also the blog post, “NANPA Philip Hyde Grant 2010” about Paul Colangelo’s conservation photography in Northern British Columbia)

Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest

The Philip Hyde Grant’s 2008 recipient, Lowell Thomas Award winner and founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Amy Gulick, recently launched her new book Salmon In The Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.

Amy Gulick’s photographs in Salmon in the Trees, document the cycle of life in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Tongass National Forest contains one-third of the world’s remaining rare temperate rain forests and the largest reserves of old growth forests in the United States. The Tongass rain forest, like other old growth forests, is an intricately balanced ecosystem and a chain of interactions with links that are weakening due to increasing outside pressures.

Continuing In The Tradition Of Conservation Photography Pioneered By Philip Hyde

Salmon In the Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest deepens and expands the work of Philip Hyde, whose landscape photographs helped expand portions of the Tongass National Forest and protected it from destruction nearly 40 years ago. The threats today are greater as the delicate balance of the ecosystems within the Tongass rain forest are at risk. Yet Salmon In the Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest, “portrays a hopeful story,” said the website text of the publisher, Braided River. The text continues:

…The Tongass is one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth. Humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions cruise the forested shorelines. Millions of wild salmon swim upstream into the forest, feeding an abundance of bears and bald eagles. Native cultures and local communities benefit from the gifts of both the forest and sea. But the global demands of our modern world may threaten this great forest’s biological riches. With camera and rain gear in hand, photographer Amy Gulick paddled and trekked among the bears, misty islands, and salmon streams… she met bush pilots, fishermen, guides, and artists…

Black Bear Paws and Salmon, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest

Amy Gulick also wrote about her Tongass conservation photography project in Outdoor Photographer in an article with the same title as her book, Salmon In The Trees. The following is from a caption to one of her photographs of the Tongass National Forest in Outdoor Photographer:

At 16.8 million acres, the Tongass is the largest national forest in the U. S.; about 40% of the Tongass consists of glacial ice fields, alpine tundra, wetlands and water, [the rest is temperate rain forest]. Bears play a significant role in spreading nutrient-packed salmon carcasses throughout the forest—the bodies of the salmon decay into the soil, and trees absorb the nutrients through their roots.

Amy Gulick’s Outdoor Photographer article continues:

Salmon live on in frolicking spring cubs, plump blueberries, new growth rings in tree trunks and downy eaglets perched in their nests. And the next generation of salmon is swaddled in the streams and incubated by the forest. The fertilized eggs will soon hatch, ensuring that the cycle of life is a circle, always flowing, never broken…. But we’re on our way to carving up this extraordinary forest. We only have to look south to the once-magnificent salmon rain forests of Washington, Oregon and northern California to see how quickly we can decimate ancient trees, wild salmon and a rich way of life…. Continued threats include logging, mining, industrial-scale tourism, energy development and global climate change.

Salmon In The Trees: The Culmination Of A Three-Year Conservation Photography Project

When I heard about Salmon In The Trees, I asked Amy Gulick if her new book was a culmination of the conservation photography project she was working on in 2008 when she won the prestigious North American Nature Photography Association’s 2008 Philip Hyde Grant. She explained that part of the criteria for the NANPA Philip Hyde Grant is that the conservation photography project already be in progress. She explained:

When I won the 2008 Philip Hyde Grant, I was halfway through completing the photography for my Tongass project. I started the project in the spring of 2007, applied for the grant in August 2007, and was awarded the grant in winter 2008. I then spent the spring and summer of 2008 completing the photography. It took most of 2009 to design and produce the book, web site, YouTube videos, and exhibit in Juneau, Alaska.

Caribou Crossing, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Wilderness or Wasteland?

Besides her conservation photography work in the Tongass rain forest, Amy Gulick’s Internet story “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Wilderness or Wasteland?” won a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award presented by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. Also, the Alaska Conservation Foundation named Amy Gulick the 2008 recipient of the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for Excellence in Still Photography. The award recognizes conservation photography projects that advance the protection of Alaska’s wilderness environment, further discussion of issues relating to habitat and stewardship of the state’s natural resources, and enhance greater public education relating to these areas. For more news about Amy Gulick and her conservation photography Click Here and to view the book trailer go to YouTube.