Dirty Jobs: Land Conservation and Environmental Management

My time at Catawba Lands Conservancy and Carolina Thread Trail has been split in many different directions, doing many different types of work, and working with all types of people. You can really learn a lot about the society we live in behind stands of pines and hardwoods, in the riparian lands along our creeks and rivers. Last week I went on a site visit to a Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) property (I won’t specify the exact location so all landowners may remain anonymous). This conserved land is separated by just a few parcels, and as many landowners from our most popular natural surface trail in the Carolina Thread Trail (CTT) network. To make this connection, would add about two miles onto our existing trail, and is a very tangible goal depending on landowner cooperation. That being said, I and two others went to the site to walk the corridor and assess trail possibilities. What we were met with was both exciting and discouraging.

Our walk started off through a managed forest of loblolly pines, which make for a great trail because of the relatively clean understory and forest floor, and then shifted down to the creek bank where the walking got a bit more laborious, but still had great potential for a trail. The creek wandered through the forest, large native pines and hardwoods on the east bank, and an intimidating wall of invasive privet on the west. Eventually the forest gave way to a wide, beautiful wetland area fed by a creek (name undisclosed) and the flood waters of the lake (name undisclosed). This area was quite pleasant this time of year, but would be a breeding ground for mosquitoes in warmer weather. The wetland area would require a series of bridges or boardwalks to implement a sustainable trail (although bridges and boardwalks would be a nice amenity for users, it can be a very expensive obstacle for us). Back into the woods we went for a short distance until we reached an untouched pool of the lake. This water body encompassed about ten acres, but was only about two feet deep and littered with trees, fallen branches, and exposed islands of grasses—a heaven on earth for wood ducks and other waterfowl. As we approached, sure enough, we bumped up a pair of wood ducks, a blue heron, and three Canadian geese. This was a beautiful sight, and rare to see on a commercialized lake such as this one. Our admiration, unfortunately, soon turned to dismay as we made our way around the water and saw the disgusting scene on the other side.Dirty Jobs: Land Conservation and Environmental Management

As we circumvented the pond, we came upon a litter pile of glass and plastic bottles, plastic toys, beer cans, tires, Styrofoam, and old household appliances. This was the largest and most dense litter pile I have ever seen in an undeveloped area. It was amazing amount of trash, and we soon came to realize that to make a trail a reality in this area we would need to have multiple volunteer workdays with many hands working diligently for hours, filling several dump truck loads of trash for removal. Trash pickup is not the most glamorous work in land management, but one that is necessary in many cases. This is one of the “dirty jobs” in land conservation work, and frankly, a job that can be over-looked or brushed under the rug because of the limited resources in small land trusts and other environmental organizations like ourselves.

As a conservationist, this is extremely frustrating to see. Trash is a serious problem in our society and a major concern for the environment through its impacts on wildlife, water quality, etc. Action needs to be taken on this front, and I’m not exactly sure what that will look like. Is it local, state, or federal policy changes? Or is it an effort made through corporate responsibility initiatives from companies producing these products, maybe an effort at the grassroots level? I’m not sure, but if something isn’t done about this soon, the increasing global population combined with the societal obsession with Dirty Jobs: Land Conservation and Environmental Managementon-the-go products, fast food, and plastic products will be the demise of our natural environment as we know it today.

Seeing is believing. It is hard to wrap the human brain around something of this magnitude from anecdotes and photos, so it is important for organizations like us to get people outside and facilitate this conversation. But remember, non-profit environmental organizations love volunteers and would fall apart without them. So please look into spending some time researching and finding places to get involved in the conservation efforts wherever that may be.

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

Since 1947, thousands of people have been invited to retreat at the Schloss Leopoldskron for Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) programs. During their stay, our participants discuss large topics, forge new friendships with people around the world, and reflect on the work they have done and will do when they return home. Last week, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria to attend the pilot program of our ten-year long Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI). The session came to a close today. And, from my five days working, observing, and participating in the YCI Forum I became more attuned to the importance of a shared understanding of vocabulary and definitions of the selected vocabulary before diving into lengthy conversation. The participants had to pause, rewind, and ask: Do buzzwords like innovation or entrepreneur mean the same thing in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Austria, The Netherlands, Slovakia, England, Greece, and America? And, if not, what will those words mean in our discussion?

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron from across the lake (10/18/2014).

I apply this same logic to a word that has cause some confusion in my time working with SGS. The word is fellow. See the three relevant definitions below.

Fellow (fel-oʊ), n. 1. (informal) a man or a boy; 2. (usually fellows) A person in the same position, involved in the same activity, or otherwise associated with another; 3. (also research fellow) An elected graduate receiving a stipend for a period of research. Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

I have seen all three uses of fellow used in just one day in the office. Distinguishing the three from one another is important for my explaining what I do (and for the sake of my future blog posts). Definition 1 . is pretty straight forward and may be used from time to time though not often. Definition 2. is applied to the individuals who are participating or have participated in Salzburg Global programs. Our organization uses the word fellowship for our alumni network of 25,000+ fellows linked through the shared experience of the Seminar. Last, definition 3. is most applicable to me and my role with SGS. I stretch “period of research” to my one-year position in non-profit development supported by both Davidson College and SGS. Although, now that I have participated in the YCI Forum I could argue I fit both definitions 2. and 3.

More to come soon on the YCI Forum and my takeaways from the lectures, workshops, and conversations I joined.

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

My view of Untersberg from the Schloss Leopoldskron (10/16/2014).

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