Posts Tagged ‘rain 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”?

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.