Registered: December 2011
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Mountain Pine Beetle Project
Rich greens no longer paint the landscape, but instead, a dry-rustic orange pervades: to the skydiver dry and empty, to the botanist-no photosynthesis, to the explorer-no shelter, to the bird-no home, to the naturalist-no life, and to the people-not right. The Mountain Pine Beetle is actively killing trees in more than six states and completely reshaping our forests. This major epidemic is an environmental issue that people are concerned with but are poorly educated about. I, Raesha Ray, a junior at Black Hills State University, took it upon myself to become informed about this epidemic, which in turn led to promoting conservation and resource management.
I grew up in the forests of Southern Colorado as my dad taught me about the ways of nature and the necessity of maintaining balance within an ecosystem. His expertise, along with my own outdoor experiences, have shaped my personal land ethic. My personal land ethic is to convey how to appreciate and manage the land in order to maintain a balance among all that is living. When presenting the Mountain Pine Beetle topic my intention was not necessarily to advocate for the trees, nor to persuade a certain action, but instead to pose questions that made people think about their own backyards. By doing this people may develop an awareness and consideration for the land.
This past summer I was hired to work at Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota, as a naturalist. The naturalist position consisted of many fun opportunities, however; I enjoyed presenting the Mountain Pine Beetle topic the most. I created a power point presentation that included everything from the basic information about the beetles’ life cycle to detailed information about the overlying destruction and the pros and cons that go with it. The power point not only informed but interpreted the landowners’ perspective along with the biologists’ perspective. When I would finish the presentation, hear an applause and receive comments, I felt reassured to know others were interested in an aspect of conservation.
Over Christmas break, I decided to go back to my home—Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to share my presentation with the community. I knew the community was experiencing the same epidemic and had questions and concerns. My presentation awakened the people who were oblivious to their surroundings. It also offered advice to homeowners who were witnessing the tragedy before their eyes. The presentation lasted an hour and questions followed. The audience appeared to appreciate the new knowledge they had gained concerning the epidemic.
My appreciation for the outdoors has been increasing since I first ventured into the wilderness at age eleven. I have a desire: My desire is to bridge the gap between the biologists and the public. That gap is detrimental to our society because the public is often misinformed while the biologists are often misunderstood. A balance is important in order to satisfy the entire community. Aldo Leopold once said, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise”. By using the phrase biotic community he is referring to all living organisms that are interdependent in locality. I want others to gain an appreciation for their community and reflect on their past as they move toward their future.
My greatest concern is that people will not notice rich greens no longer paint the landscape, but instead a dry-rustic orange pervades. I want people to look at the devastation of the trees and say; that is not right. I am confident that with my persistence and passion for our land I will influence a spark in others that will ignite their fire for conservation.