Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seeking Volunteers for Willow Cutting

CFWEP, in collaboration with the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation and the National Folk Festival, are seeking volunteers to assist in gathering willow cuttings in the Butte area that will be used as art materials for Family Area Activities at the 2008 National Folk Festival in Butte on Saturday and Sunday July 12 and 13. We will provide volunteers with all necessary equipment and transportation to cutting sites. Volunteers are also welcome to come to willow cutting events at any time during the two scheduled cuttings (i.e. you don’t have to be there all day- if you can pitch in for an hour or two, we would appreciate it!). Site locations are To-Be-Announced. To sign-up, or for more information, contact Justin Ringsak, CFWEP, 406-496-4897, jringsak@mtech.edu. Thanks!

Willow Cutting Dates:
Monday June 16, 2008, Noon-5pm
Monday July 7, 2008, 2:30-5:30pm

Guest Blog: We need to live life with ocean in mind

By Wallace J. Nichols
Article Launched: 06/06/2008 01:34:07 AM PDT

Everywhere I go, people ask: "What one thing can I do for the ocean?"

My daughter, a kindergartner, answers simply: "pick up your trash." Of course, using energy-efficient light bulbs or driving a hybrid are good answers, since global warming is fundamentally an ocean issue. Then again, the simple act of choosing to eat seafood that is sustainable and healthy can help the ocean.

But our ocean is in serious trouble. Reading recent news and scientific papers is enough to make your head spin. They tell us that there is no corner of our vast ocean that is not free of human fingerprints.

As an oceanographer, I'm quite familiar with the relentless bad news. Keeping up-to-date on it all is a part of my job. Since the ocean holds the majority of life on Earth and governs our air, our climate and our food, that means we're in real, big trouble.

As daunting as it appears, the ocean crisis can be boiled down to three problems: we've put too much in, we've taken too much out, and we are wrecking the edge.

Who wouldn't be concerned about the ever-expanding Texas-size "garbage patch" in the Pacific Ocean, the shutdown of West Coast salmon fishing, right whales and sea turtles drowning in fishing gear, and the summer closure of beaches due to toxic pollution?

What you can do?

Obviously, there is no silver bullet - or, is there? If I had one answer to give to those who ask, "What can I do for the ocean?" it would be this: "Live like you love the ocean." Living like we love the ocean means putting less in, taking less out and protecting the ocean's edge where so much life lives.

Less in. Less out. Protect the edge.


Rather than wringing our hands, hope is on the horizon. We can live like we love the ocean in many ways.

First, shop like you love the ocean.

Buy products that are ocean-friendly. Use a canvas bag to get your stuff from the store to your car to your house, rather than a plastic bag that will stick around forever. Drink filtered tap water from a refillable glass or steel bottle instead of buying water shipped halfway around the world.

Second, eat like you love the ocean.

When you choose seafood, be sure it's caught sustainably. That's gotten a heck of a lot easier lately as Whole Foods, thousands of local restaurants, and even Wal-Mart are going organic and sustainable.

Third, vacation like you love the ocean.

Doing your part

This summer, hike in a coastal park or visit an aquarium. Go on a sea turtle or whale watch where your visit supports conservation. Surfing, kayaking and snorkeling are all ocean-friendly activities. Why not join Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup and make a day of it with your friends?

Lastly, vote like you love the ocean.

Many local, state, and national politicians support bold efforts to tackle global warming, create ocean parks - our so-called "Undersea Yosemites" that Ocean Conservancy is helping to build - and better fund cutting-edge ocean science. With our votes, we must be perfectly clear: We want leaders who bring about sea change.

We are entering a decade of progress in the culture of conservation and sustainability. Millions who care deeply about the ocean are joining to transform our relationship with the sea - they are starting a sea change.

Each of us must be part of this ocean revolution - each in our own way, each as part of a connected whole.

Join for yourself. Join for others. Join for the ocean. But, when you join, please remember to live like you love the ocean.

WALLACE J. NICHOLS is a senior scientist at Ocean Conservancy and a research associate at California Academy of Sciences. He was featured in the documentary film "The 11th Hour." He wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The 1908 Flood Trickles Down to the Present

The past never truly leaves us. It deposits itself, once used up, in layers underneath us, forming the foundations that we walk on in the present and the future, for better or for worse. The modern Clark Fork Basin, the largest complex of Superfund environmental cleanup sites in the U.S., is the result of a past shaped by a confluence of forces, both natural and human-created. 100 years of mining and smelting at the headwaters in Butte and Anaconda significantly impacted the area, and some of those impacts were channeled down the creeks of the basin, ultimately impairing the ecological health of the Clark Fork River.

In 1908, mining in Butte had been booming for several decades, while down the road in Anaconda ore processing operations spread air and water pollution throughout the Deer Lodge valley. Further downstream near Missoula, construction had just been completed on Copper King William Clark’s Milltown Dam. The dam was built to power Clark’s nearby lumber mill, which supplied timbers for the mines back upstream, as well as modern trolley cars, streetlights and electricity in Missoula.

In June of 1908, a massive flood event, the largest of historic record, exacerbated the environmental impacts already occurring at the upper end of the basin. In Butte and Anaconda, mine tailings that had been disposed of in and along local creeks were picked up by the momentum of the rising waters and washed downstream. Some tailings were deposited in floodplains. In the Clark Fork floodplain in the Deer Lodge valley, patches of such tailings, often called “slickens”, are still clearly visible as bare patches of dirt with little or no vegetation.

The force of the flood carried a large volume of tailings past the town of Deer Lodge, and, as the Clark Fork’s channel narrowed and, with water added from the Little Blackfoot River, Flint Creek, Rock Creek, and other tributaries, fewer tailings sediments settled out of the water as it made its way down toward Missoula. Finally, the flood pushed this large volume of tailings into the Milltown Dam. The contaminated sediments settled out in the reservoir, where they remained until the recent dam removal and restoration project.

The effects of the 1908 flood have flowed into modern times. Looking across the basin today, we can see these effects in the ongoing restoration of Silver Bow Creek as streamside tailings deposited by a century of mining are removed. We can see these effects in the slickens dotting the landscape of Deer Lodge Valley; restoration of this section of the river should begin in the next few years. We can even see these effects in the waters themselves, where, if there is heavy runoff or rain, metals and other contaminants wash in, threatening fish and aquatic life. We can see these effects 120 miles downstream at the Milltown Dam, where tailings deposits contaminated the local aquifer with arsenic and ultimately played a key role in the decision to remove the dam. And we can see these effects at the BP/Arco Waste Repository near the town of Opportunity, where tailings from Silver Bow Creek and Milltown are shipped and spread out atop the six square miles of tailings already present at the site from the old operations of the Anaconda Smelter and Reduction Works.

And so in 2008 the tailings that washed downstream to Milltown a hundred years ago are making the trip home, back upstream to Opportunity, not quite reaching their ultimate point of origin on the Butte Hill. As we go forward in restoring the Clark Fork River, it is essential to remember the past and its consequences. Our actions also have consequences, some immediate, some very long term, and many we do not have the ability to see or predict. As we proceed with restoration, and as the natural resource economy continues to be a part of Montana culture, we must be mindful that our actions today will carry over into tomorrow. Restoration is no easy task, neither is limiting the impacts of civilization, growth and development on the natural world. But if we don’t wish to lose the rivers, landscapes and wildlife we profess to love and treasure here in the Treasure State, then we must continually work to understand the consequences of our actions and to do our best to maintain the health of our last best environment.

It would be a mistake to think that the cleanup of the Clark Fork will some day be “finished” or “complete.” The cleanup of the Clark Fork and similarly impacted rivers is not so much about a linear series of tasks to be completed as it is about our long-term relationship with the river. A culture of environmental stewardship is blooming in Montana, motivated by past impacts, but once the visible remnants of those impacts have been restored and removed from our field of vision, we must keep our eyes locked firmly on that slippery concept of stewardship in the hope that, in another 100 years, we can celebrate the centennial of a healthy Clark Fork River.