Fracking does not belong in our National Wildlife Refuges

Centennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MontanaCentennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

As a bird and nature photographer I often visit National Wildlife Refuges and soak up the natural beauty found within them when I am photographing birds, scenery and wildlife. National Wildlife Refuges can be found in all 50 states and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands. As of December 3, 2013 there are 562 National Wildlife refuges and 38 Wetlands Management Districts.

What is the Mission of our National Wildlife Refuges?

Mission Statement
The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

This land is absolutely priceless and the habitat within them is needed to protect our nation’s wildlife today and for future generations of animals, plants and people .

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, UtahBear River National Wildlife Refuge, Utah

National Wildlife Refuges are home to birds, mammals, fish and plants some of which are at risk or endangered by habitat destruction and by pollution outside of the refuge boundaries. Some National Wildlife Refuges have had a part in saving endangered species, for instance in 1932 there were fewer than 70 Trumpeter Swans in the U.S.  and half of those were found at Red Rock Lakes in the Centennial Valley of Montana.  In 1935 Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge was established, the swans were protected and today the estimated population of Trumpeter Swans is 46,225. That is quite a comeback!

But now there is another danger to these natural treasures. That danger is oil and gas exploration and the possibility of fracking within our National Wildlife Refuges. We have to say no to fracking by raising our voices and telling our elected officials and those responsible for the preservation of our refuges that there is No Fracking Way we want these refuges or the wildlife within them to suffer the consequences of fracking.

Centennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MontanaThis is not a view we want to see of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

Oil and gas companies want to come in our National Wildlife Refuges to explore for oil and natural gas, they want to exploit; not preserve and protect,  the resources found within the boundaries of our National Wildlife System. They want to tear up the land for new roads and other construction possibly putting endangered species at further risk. With the oil and gas industry comes noise, light pollution, the possibility of toxic chemical spills, waste, air pollutants, and water pollutants.

I combined two photos above, one of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge taken near the Lower Lake looking out over the Centennial Valley towards the Centennial Mountains and one that I had taken of a fracking operation in northwestern Montana to show you and other people what it could look like if fracking is allowed in our National Wildlife Refuges.  Those flowers and green grass could not survive fracking. And the animals that call the meadow home? They would die or have to move.

This is NOT what I want to see when I go to visit a National Wildlife Refuge. It is not want I want to hear or smell either.

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, UtahDon’t allow this to happen to Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Utah

This is what Bear River National Wildlife Refuge could look like if fracking is allowed within its boundaries. The surface water there would become polluted and the earth would be injected with dangerous chemicals polluting the ground water which in turn could seriously affect every bird or animal that lives or breeds within the refuge.

The oil companies can not protect the environment, their safety policies are inadequate and their proven track records for spills, pollution and explosions are simply beyond pathetic. Think Exxon Valdez, think Deepwater Horizon, think of the smaller oil disasters that have killed millions of fish, sea life, mammals and birds and left habit destroyed for our lifetimes and those of our grandchildren and their grandchildren too. Think of those dangerous chemicals injected deep within the earth fracturing the very ground we stand on. The polluted aquifers.

We don’t want fracking or oil wells in our National Wildlife Refuges. Please let Mr. Scott Covington, Refuge Energy Program Coordinator of the US Fish and Wildlife Service know by signing this NRDC petition to protect our National Wildlife Refuges from fracking today. All of us need to raise our voices for that which can not speak for itself.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife RefugeJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

This last image pretty much sums up what I think about fracking in our National Wildlife Refuges and the oil companies who want to exploit and violate these National Treasures.

I have signed the petition, will you?


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I didn’t have a rosy dawn but I can share one

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Rosy DawnRed Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Rosy Dawn

I have hit a lot of bumps on the path that my life has taken me and yesterday I hit another when my site experienced an outage. I had hoped that when I woke up the outage would be resolved but dawn for me wasn’t that rosy.

Nor was it as rosy as the dawn I photographed at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge two years ago.

I often think of natural places when life gets stressful for me and I thought of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to help soothe and calm me while getting through the stresses of last night and this morning. I wish I had been able to get out this glorious morning with my camera in hand but it wasn’t to be. Some times I get the short straw.

Back to thinking about nature, birds, photography and the amazing, wild places that await me.


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Roseate Visions

A Roseate Spoonbill in a Tidal LagoonA Roseate Spoonbill in a Florida Tidal Lagoon

The sky outside is cloudy and gray this morning so I thought I’d share some images with rosy colors to brighten my day and hopefully yours as well.


The Roseate Spoonbill is only found in North America and of the six species of spoonbills in the world it is the only species that has such vivid, rosy colors. Roseate Spoonbills have rose red eyes, carmine red in its scapulars and soft pink bodies.

A Roseate Dawn at Fort De SotoA Roseate Dawn at Fort De Soto

Clouds in the morning with the sun just beginning to rise over the horizon can create roseate dawn colors which are a visual delight. For me; when a day starts with rosy pink clouds it is easy to be optimistic about what wonders the day might bring.

The sky shown in my image above certainly had a roseate glow to it and although those clouds came onshore and the rain started falling those rosy clouds certainly brightened my day.

Roses in Dunedin, New ZealandRoses in Dunedin, New Zealand

The word Roseate has its roots in Middle English and stemmed from Latin roseus ‘rosy’ (from rosa ‘rose’). I can easily see the colors of these Roses in the Roseate Spoonbill and the clouds  in the images above.

Who needs rose-colored glasses when we have such beautiful roseate colors in the natural world?


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Open Air Concert of a Western Meadowlark Singing from a Sagebrush

Western Meadowlark singing from a SagebrushWestern Meadowlark singing from a Sagebrush – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, not baited or called in

Yesterday was a bit like a wonderful open air concert on Antelope Island with the calls of Curlews, Willets, Chukars, Red-winged Blackbirds and Western Meadowlarks floating through the air.  Some of the birds are still skittish but there were a few cooperative Western Meadowlarks yesterday that sang on top of the Sagebrush which have already sprouted their pale silvery-green leaves. The Meadowlark above was on a sage brush near the shore of the Great Salt Lake. In the background the grayish-tan is the sand along the shore and the blue in the upper part of the frame is actually the lake not the sky.

Sure, there are natural open air concerts for all 365 days of the year on Antelope Island State Park but after a long winter the spring concerts seem livelier, clearer and louder!


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Black-billed Magpie in flight over Antelope Island State Park

Black-billed Magpie in flightBlack-billed Magpie in flight – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR at 380mm, natural light, not baited

In all my visits to Antelope Island State Park I don’t think there has been a single time when I haven’t seen or heard Black-billed Magpies. There are times I don’t see the other year round residents of the island including the Bison and Pronghorn but I can always count on seeing magpies.

Black-billed Magpies have rather noisy calls and some people find that annoying but I don’t mind their calls at all. They are elegant looking birds with their strongly marked black and white plumage, their long tails and the flashes of iridescence in certain light. In this image I was able to capture that iridescence in almost all of the magpie’s dark plumage as it flew away from it’s nest with mud on it’s bill.


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