November 26, 2014

Turns out there are real turkeys in Alabama. They’ve expressed some concern that Judge Roy Moore impersonates a turkey in court.

A Thanksgiving salute from the denizens of our public lands.

Here's a handsome pair of wild turkeys to celebrate #Thanksgiving! Photo at Eufala NWR by Michael Padgett #Alabama

From Interior Department’s Twitter feed: Here’s a handsome pair of wild turkeys to celebrate #Thanksgiving! Photo at Eufala NWR by Michael Padgett #Alabama

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  • Eufala National Wildlife Refuge: “The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1964 through community support and in cooperation with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is located on both banks of the Chattahoochee River in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. Named after the city of Eufaula, the refuge offers a variety of wetland and upland habitats for diverse fauna. A prominent feature of the abundant wetlands is Lake Eufaula (Walter F. George Reservoir) and several feeder streams”

Snow brings beauty to Conway Summit, California

November 21, 2014

From our public lands, from the Twitter feed of the U.S. Department of Interior:

@Interior caption: Fall foliage and snow-capped peaks make for a stunning shot of Conway Summit #California @BLMca #nature

@Interior caption: Fall foliage and snow-capped peaks make for a stunning shot of Conway Summit #California @BLMca #nature

In my winter drives through the desert mountains of the Great Basin I often marveled at how a dusting of snow could turn a landscape generally painted in tones of brown with a little green into almost black and white. Then there are those black and white landscapes slashed by stunning gashes of color, or tinted subtley.

Conway Summit shows the stunning gashes of color this week. Grays, whites, blacks — and gold and pink.  It’s in the western part of California, near Nevada and Mono Lake:

Conway Summit (el. 8,143 feet (2,482 m)) is a mountain pass in Mono County, California. It is traversed by U.S. Highway 395, which connects Bridgeport and the East Walker River on the north side of the pass to Mono Lake and Lee Vining to the south.[1][2] It marks the highest point on U.S. 395, which also traverses high passes at Deadman Summit and Devil’s Gate Pass.[3]

Conway Summit is named after John Andrew Conway, a settler in the area in 1880.[3][4] Geographically, it was formed from an upland plateau by the sinking of the land in the Mono basin area.[5] The Sawtooth Ridge of the eastern Sierra Nevada, topped by 12,279-foot (3,743 m) Matterhorn Peak, rise to the west of the pass; Green Creek and Virginia Lakes, in the Sierra Nevada to the west of the pass, are two local destinations for fishing, camping and aspen trees. The Bodie Hills and the infamous Bodie ghost town lie to the east.

This scene comes from our public lands, the undifferentiated lands held in trust by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and managed for multiple uses.  You and I may look at this photo and marvel at the beauty of America, and say a little prayer of thanks for our public lands.  Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz see potential for high-dollar vacation residences throughout this scene, if only the land could be sold off.


Brown bear, brown bear, what fish do you see?

June 6, 2014

You'll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G

You’ll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G

Fishing brown bears, and one seagull, in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, from the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed.

Thanks to Bill Martin, Jr., and Eric Carle,  author and illustrator respectively of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education pulled this book from reading standards suggested books, because the board confused Bill Martin, Jr., with another Bill Martin who had written socialist texts. The book was eventually reinstated.


Sunset on the Madison

May 20, 2014

Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.

Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.

Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.

Yellowstone National Park's Twitter feed:  Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ

Yellowstone National Park’s Twitter feed: Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ


Free land! May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act remade America

May 20, 2014

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

History and demographics of the United States were forever changed when the Homestead Act became law early in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, on May 20, 1862.

With Congress paralyzed and unable to act to do even minor good things now, it’s astonishing to think how the Congress of 1862 could do so much to open the American west, in the middle of the American Civil War.  Perhaps Congress was able to act because legislators from the South were absent, and did not oppose progress.

In any case, the Homestead Act encouraged Americans who lacked property to strike out for the western territories and states, to make a new life, to found new towns, cities and farms, and fulfill what some call the nation’s “manifest destiny.”

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

Here’s the history from the National Archives:

The notion that the United States government should give free land titles to settlers to encourage westward expansion became popular in the 1850s. During that time the U.S. House of Representatives passed numerous homestead bills but southern opposition in the Senate prevented enactment. In 1860, during the 36th Congress, the Senate narrowly passed a homestead act but President James Buchanan vetoed it and the Senate failed its override attempt.

When the 37th Congress convened for its brief summer session in 1861, now without members from seceded states, it was preoccupied with Civil War-related legislation. The House took up briefly the homestead issue in December but postponed further consideration of it until the following February. The House finally passed the Homestead Act on February 28, 1862 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The act worked its way through the Senate until May 6, 1862 when it passed easily by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—which both houses agreed to without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln who signed the act into law on May 20, 1862.

The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.

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Much of this post has appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before; the Homestead Act deserves commemoration.


Daytime Moon and jet

April 17, 2014

Passenger jet and Moon.  Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Passenger jet and Moon. Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Handheld Nikon.  Nikon stabilizing lens.  Good hands, I’d say.

Third to last time I was out near Lake Powell, I was with Rodger (and about a dozen others) organizing hearings of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors.  We flew into Page, Arizona, on an Otter II coming up from Phoenix flying low, looking for elk, and legally buzzing Rainbow Bridge (impressive from the air, too).

We had a luncheon meeting at Wahweap Marina, as I recall; no time for boating.

Then we were off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There we inspected pine trees 30 feet tall, growing between the ties of the then-abandoned rail lines.  (And did a lot of other stuff.)

Today trains carry tourists to the South Rim on those tracks, the trees gone.  Progress, really.

Rodger carries on in the knowledge that use of the outdoors, especially these public lands, heals souls, and sometimes gives you great photos.

Rodger said I could borrow the photo.  Thanks!


Insta-Millard: Nevada’s Constitution doesn’t favor Cliven Bundy

April 15, 2014

It’s a relic of the Civil War and Congress’s intention to strengthen the Union when Nevada became a state in 1864, but there it is, in Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution, making a mockery of Cliven Bundy’s claim to owe allegiance to Nevada and its Constitution, but not to the U.S.:

Sec: 2.  Purpose of government; paramount allegiance to United States.  All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair[,] subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existance [existence], and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

Sheesh!

Here’s the essay quiz, students:  The standoff between the Bureau of Land Management cowboys — each of whom swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the U.S., in contrast to Mr. Bundy who claims to owe no allegiance to the U.S. — and the armed mob who threatened to kill those same employees of our U.S. government:  Did Nevadans  (or Idahoans) violate any part of Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution?  Which clauses?

I used to say “the Sagebrush Rebellion is over; sagebrush won.”  Even the sagebrush are losing this one.

From The Atlantic:  Eric Parker, who lives in central Idaho, aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

From The Atlantic: Eric Parker, who lives in central Idaho, aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)  (See also Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, with regard to Mr. Parker’s actions here.)

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