150 Third Graders…1 Forester

Man always kills the thing he loves. And so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in.” – Aldo Leopold

As the school year ends, I was asked to help out with several elementary schools for the end of the year outdoor events.  Yesterday, I helped with the third graders at a local school- 150 of them!!! For all you teachers out there, I commend you, one day with them I was exhausted! I have worked with smaller groups of children with 4-H, boy scouts and such but not a group this big.  It was great to see the children so excited about trees and conservation, we have to get them excited about the environment at a young age in hopes they continue to grow up with a conservation mindset.

I chose the quote at the beginning of this entry because first off Aldo is amazing and secondly because the quote says it all, the children I was with Friday are young in a time where they can not always be “young in the wild”.  Times have even changed since I was young.  I always spent my days outside in the woods running around and exploring and coming in once it was dark- kids today cannot do that.  Which is basically what Aldo Leopold is saying here, he is glad he is not young “today” because it is not the same wild country where kids can go outside and be safe playing enjoying nature like we used to.  We have also expanded in a way where children are growing up in more urban environments where the backyard is fenced in with little adventure.

Working with the third graders was fun, intimidating, but fun! A lot of little kids starring at you is intimidating!! We talked about conservation, how trees grow, the difference between a deciduous and coniferous trees and then did a fun little recycling project! Every time, I said deciduous tree they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language! Some of them knew about economics but trees was a foreign language! Yes, economics is important- but trees are life too!! One young boy told me that deciduous trees are the ones that are hollow, another said the difference is their bark!  Hopefully, now they know the difference.  For the recycling project we had some fun, I wanted to keep the kids entertained so we used red pine cones to make little critters! Gave them all a chance to be artsy and crazy while learning about pine cones and enjoying nature in a way that will hopefully stick with them!

Conservation- preserve, protect, guard   –Mother nature for future generations

Twig the Cone Mouse- My example creature.
Twig the Cone Mouse- My example creature.
One groups Pine Cone Creatures
One groups Pine Cone Creatures
One Group working hard!
One Group working hard!

Rain equals Water

Water is the Driving Force of all Nature  -Leonardo da Vinci

Sitting inside while it is raining outside all day- gets me thinking.  Water is some ares of the planet is a commodity we take for granted- here in Michigan we don’t even worry about it because we are surrounded by the Great Lakes- doesn’t get much better than that right?! No- just because we are surrounded by freshwater does not mean other parts of the world are struggling for clean water to drink, bathe in, or use for cooking.  Look at California- a place kind of like home since it is the US, they are struggling right now and have been for awhile.  It is said they only have a year left, maybe less, of water availability.   According to water.org  “750 million people in other countries lack clean water”.  That fact is sickening!! Now, because we do have water at large here in the Midwest, I want to take a moment talk about Rain Barrels!!

Yeah a barrel and holds rain- WHO KNEW!? At the conservation district I work for, the administrator received a grant to help folks get all set up with a rain barrel.  If set up right, it can reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and save money on watering gardens, plants, and even the grass.  Best results the barrel is placed on a sturdy platform underneath a downspout to catch the rain from the roof.  A screen can be placed on top of the barrel to keep out bugs and other things that like water! (be sure to clean the screen from time to time–leaves and other things may get on there!!).  Also remember to clean the inside at winter time and before the first time you use it again in spring!  I heard that one rain barrel owner puts gold fish in theirs to keep it cleaner! Hey whatever works! Rainwater is actually “better” for plants, trees and lawns because it is naturally soft water and free from minerals or chemicals added to tap water- such as chlorine. Its important for us to do our part and conserve where we can and this is an easy way to conserve and reuse water.  Also, for you artists out there–fun project alert!!!- Painting the barrel to make it a nice visual piece in the yard!

Top 3 Benefits!!

1. saves money on tap water for plants, gardens, and lawns

2. reduces runoff into lawns (basements) and reduces the amount of runoff in large storms clogging road drains

3. can help save up water for times of drought

“Not safe for personal or pet consumption! Also- not recommended for veggie or fruit gardens! but great for TREES”!

Rain Barrel :)
Rain Barrel 🙂

Well Managed Versus Well Groomed

Being a good steward of the land is not about going through it with a fine toothed comb.

Whether its one acre or one thousand acres of forest land the key is knowing how to manage it.  When looking at a forested property I am looking for- diversity in trees, shrubs, and plants and if there are any water features.  Once I know what the species composition is and if there are any wetlands, creeks or ponds then I already know a great deal about that forested property. By the species present I can get a rough estimate of the type of soils present (well-drained soils or clay) and by the water feature I know if there is change in elevation and also indicates wet soils; meaning different species will likely be present.

Also, by knowing these two things I am able to look at the big picture for best management.  Awhile back I was asked to talk about wildlife habitat while walking through a community forest.  At first, I was pumped, “yeah a walk through talking about attracting wildlife”.  But as we reached the first place to speak, I froze and not just because it was negative 20 that day but because this forest was so groomed over that it was hard to see that bigger picture.  Don’t get me wrong this community forest was beautiful and did attract wildlife with cover and water feature.  However, I am used to walking through a forest with snags, fallen trees and limbs, and at least some ground cover.  Because this forest is well groomed for the public it does not have all these features due to safety reasoning.

Sometime folks get so caught up in trying to keep their property “neat and tidy” they don’t realize its not actually helping promote growth. Without the wildlife habitat spread of seeds decreases, reducing regeneration (not completely but kinda). The opposite of this is just as detrimental, letting a forest just grow, grow, and grow and not manage it at all.  Eventually that forest would all just be mature trees- they would grow old, die and little to no regeneration will happen and forest would be lost, or become a huge fire hazard.  We need to find that middle ground- where management is happening but not too much where the structure or composition of the forest is compromised.  Ahh, the beauty of best management practices!! Now, I could go on and on about this but I feel I have gotten my thoughts across so I will leave with one final thought.

Consult your local forester before doing any major logging, planting, or anything around a wetland; do the research.

See the bigger picture, not just whats right in front of you.


Fire… FIRE!!!!

We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there. – Charles F. Kettering

As a forester, I am always thinking future- what can be done now to best manage forests and ecosystems for the future, because “guess what”, we will always be headed towards the future and we want to pave for a “better” future for younger generations.  This morning I was talking with a a colleague and he expressed his gratitude for me being of younger generation and being environmentally conscious.  Even at my age, I am worried about the younger generation because like my elders, I to am only borrowing this land from generations below me and I want to make sure I pave a better path then generations before me because I have the education and science to make it better.  I can not turn my head and say, well the next generation will fix it, I need to ACT NOW.

Anyways, off my soap box and to the point of this post.  Best Forest Management.  Recently, there was a small forest fire in my backyard and the yards around me.  One of my neighbors decided to burn leaves but did not consult Mr. Smokey first! If they had asked Smokey the Bear prior they would have know it was way to dry and the winds would blow the warm coals and catch fire. So a fire broke out, affected 5 property owners, my property included.  No building damages caused but the ground of the woodlot sitting between us all had been burned.

This type of fire is called a cool fire or surface fire, it was low burning and did not affect the canopy.  Although, this fire was not a prescribed fire it still has its benefits. I know some of the landowners affected are not happy, but I tried explaining to them that its actually “good” and since they did not lose any mature trees they will see in the near future that it has benefited them.  Forest fires have been used since forever because of all their benefits.  Fires can minimize the spread of disease and insects, it can remove the presence of invasive species that are not used to fire, it can improve habitat, and promotes the growth of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers!  The key here is native…fire helps bring back native species while burning out the non-natives and invasive species.  Some species require fire to regenerate! Serotinous cones such as the jack pine need fire to open up the cone and release the seeds. Fire is healthy when done correctly.

Although this was not a prescribed fire, I believe it will benefit the area burned in a positive way. But lesson learned to neighbors–consult Smokey Bear and do not burn leaves when its dry as dry out!

Best management for the future may include the scarier approach

Overview of fire- Notice only small brush was burned still ample regeneration left behind
Overview of fire- Notice only small brush was burned still ample regeneration left behind
Firebreak trench made by MI DNR
Firebreak trench made by MI DNR
3ft from my shed!!
3ft from back end of my shed!!

Three Days…No Flannel- Day 3

Mayor in TX: “I am going 100% renewable, but I am polar opposite of Al Gore”.

Al Gore: “Hey man, that works for me”!

This quote was quite funny, regardless if you like Al Gore or not Climate Change is real, renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and we need to do something about it before all is irreversible.   This Mayor is entitled to his opinion and just because he does not like Al Gore it does not matter because by him still going 100% renewable is the step everyone needs to take.  I am sure I will speak to folks who do not like me- but because the science, the facts, the reality IS real does not mean they will not change!

The third day, bittersweet.  I was filled with empowerment and knowledge but sad to be taken out of my safe bubble. Last night, at the board meeting I was asked what was one thing I found most beneficial with this training.  I responded with it was my safe place. I was given the opportunity to meet folks around the world and be in an environment to get the education, training, and empowerment to fight Climate Change.  Climate change in my area is still a taboo statement, so being able to be surround by folks with the same passion was one of the most beneficial things for me.

The third day was geared towards using the knowledge we gained and present with the most impact. One of the sessions was all about words, body language and tone.  According to The Truman Security Project words count for 7%, body language 55% and tone counts for 38% of the presentation.  Basically, no one hears the content of the presentation unless all other things are in line.  Another key point I took from this presentation was to identify shared values, when talking about Climate Change it can be difficult but for me personally I can connect “My Story” with folks by talking about trees.  Since it is what I do, I know my landowners share the value of wanting to preserve their forests so that is my main hook to keep my audience engaged.

It is now time for me to take what I learned and find my path to Climate Reality and get the message out there! Even if I reach one person at a time- that one will tell another and it will spiral. We have to come together and make a change.  This is the future of humanity- so wake up!

Oh, and I survived the three days…no flannel challenge!

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”

“Blue Marble”
The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project
Table 36- Canada, Holland, US, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria
Table 36- Canada, Holland, US, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria
I graduated! :)
I graduated! 🙂

Three Days…No Flannel- Day 2

“There is a device that pulls CO2 out of the air, and turns it into a useful product… It’s called a TREE”- Al Gore

Day two- uffda! After finally settling into hotel and coming down from the excitement of the first day I managed to get some sleep to get back to the venue for round two.  Day two was primarily focused on Al Gore and dissecting the presentation for everyone to understand it in order for us to take it back with us and use in our personal presentations.  Now, I could tell you all about this presentation but I won’t.  I want to just talk about a couple of key stories and overview of a few things.

First of all, Al Gore is an incredible speaker- he is very passionate and has a way of empowering folks with the content by the tone of his voice.  One minute he would be there speaking to us as a normal presentation then all of a sudden a huge build up would lead to a passionate tangent, where again he would yo-yo it back in and make perfect sense.  Al Gore works on his presentations up to the last minute, right before he start presenting.  The information is fresh and relates to the audience he is speaking to.

Al Gore split his 500+ slide presentation up into 3 sections and at the end of a section each table would submit a question for the Q & A part.  I remember my table discussing what they wanted the question to be, listening to them talk I couldn’t help but interject.  They had wanted to know if there were any technologies or solutions to trap CO2 or just take CO2 out of the air, I smiled and said “A TREE”.  Now, remember these 5 gentlemen were brilliant but I think they over thought the question or wanted to know if there was a bigger solution! Through the day and half I knew these guys they already were caught up on my crazy love for forestry and trees so they were polite but still wanted to submit the question.  After the question was asked to Al Gore…he talked a little about a contraption that can take out CO2 but has to be buried in the ground away from all things and left there- we don’t have space or time for this and it can only hold small amounts compared to the amount of CO2 in the air.  After this long explanation this was said “There is a device that pulls CO2 out of the air, and turns it into a useful product… It’s called a TREE and many trees is a FOREST”!  I was SHOCKED…I looked at my table with a huge smile and they were all smiling and cheering me on and I jokingly took a bow! I looked back at Al Gore made eye contact and was just on cloud 9!! Sometimes I know what I am talking about!

A fun yo-yo moment was when Al Gore was talking about aerial photos to see all sides of the Earth.  Back in the day he tried to launch a satellite to get photos of the Earth from all sides, I think he mentioned a 24/7 photo set. Anyways, he told us all about this and how it did not get launched because no one thought they would want to see that many photos and such because it would be like “watching your grass grow, and no one likes that”.  But this is not true because the lawn care is a 40 billion dollar industry! “I guess people do like to watch their grass grow”! -Al Gore Needless to say, Al’s satellite is finally in route and will reach destination in June and start sending photos!

Day two– Still surviving without a flannel!

Outside on a break :)
Outside on a break 🙂 Check out the matching shoes that’s riiiight!!
Day Two with map of the locations of leaders!
Day Two with map of the locations of leaders!

Three Days…No Flannel- Day 1

“Be Nice, Be Kind, Be Respectful BUT Challenge Denial”!! – Al Gore

Last week, I had a life changing experience.  A while back I was accepted into the Climate Reality Leadership Corps where I would embark on a 3 day training to become a Climate Reality Leader.  I did not know what to expect at this convention except for the fact I would be trained by Al Gore on becoming a leader in climate change.  I went in to this thinking I would learn a thing or two to help further me in my career; I never expected to become part of something bigger than myself.  I joined a family of 122 other counties (22 different counties at this event) and thousands of other people who see the facts of life and realize that this is REALITY.  In future posts I will talk more about the science, but today I would like to share my story; my experience.

I am not going to lie, I was extremely nervous for this event.  Mostly because I did not know what to expect, we fear what we do not know and I was a classic case of this.  I prepared as much as possible browsing my climate change books (an inconvenient truth and Al Gore The Future) and even dressed for success.  I figured this event was more than a flannel and jeans type event- so I went outside my comfort zone of a flannel. Worked perfectly, it gave me the confidence to lead myself and lead for my work. A common question I was asked at the event was if I applied for pleasure or for work.  I responded with Both, it was originally for pleasure but when I thought about it, it IS my work, it IS my passion.

Anyhoot, Day 1- WOW!  I walked in, full of confidence ready to make a difference.  Everything I had expected was surpassed with pure greatness.  I received my recycled binder and 100% biodegradable name tag and table and went and started to mingle.  A friend from a neighboring environmental organization also joined me so it was nice to have some familiarity there in IOWA! We started to mingle with who ever we passed talking with folks from all over the states and from different counties.  The most familiar thing to me was the coffee…oh the coffee!!! Finally, it was about to start and I found my table.  Sat down, but no one was there- eventually I went out to information to see if there had been a mistake, no mistake, rather no one from my table had checked in.  So I politely asked to join the table of gentleman next to mine. BEST DECISION made!! Instantly I had 5 new friends all from different countries.  I was the only one from the US, it was incredible.  Incredible that they took the time to travel here and that they were not only representing Climate Change but they were doing it from other parts of the country; Nigeria, Canada, Pakistan, Brazil and Holland.  If we want to address Climate Crisis at a serious level the globe needs to be on board! Through my three days I began to collaborate ideas and inspirations with these 5 men.

Now, I knew that Al Gore would be present for at least a speech sometime in the 3 days but as I looked at the agenda I realized he will be with us all 3 days! Leading up to leaving for the convention and explaining to folks about this and mentioning Al Gore I got the looks- and I always responded…”put politics aside, this man is an environmentalist of our time and his message and work is real”.  As the Climate Reality president and director introduced themselves I was overwhelmed…but I had no idea what the presence of Al Gore would make me feel.  When they introduced Al Gore and he walked out on stage, I was overwhelmed with complete joy and comfort.  I sprung to my feet, hands rapidly clapping together with respect for what he is doing what he stands for; tears filled my eyes with happiness that I am about to be trained by a very influential person of my time.  For the first day Al Gore went quickly through his 500+ slide show on Climate Change, going off on tangents and passionate stories.  It was funny how after the fact when talking with others how sometimes a tangent seemed so absurd while he was talking and then BAM like a yo-yo he brought it back to his hand and it made complete sense.

I left that first day, having met handfuls of new folks, feeling empowered by the words of Al Gore and wanting to wake up early and start all over again.  I remember calling back home and saying “I feel safe, I feel so empowered, I am in a room with others who think like me, and all having the same goal”. Truly an amazing feeling knowing that—

Climate Reality–Its the face of humanity–WAKE UP!   #CRinIOWA

Standing in front of Map where all the other leaders are located!
Standing in front of Map where all the other leaders are located!

Climate Reality

Canada, Holland, US, Pakistan and Nigeria  Brazil-Not Pictured
Canada, Holland, US, Pakistan and Nigeria
Brazil-Not Pictured