Thursday, January 17, 2008

Off to watch sea lions

I'm going to become deeply involved in the whole Sea Lion/Bonneville Dam/Salmon problem this term, and probably next. The crafty "C404" lion that kept figuring out how to get where he wasn't supposed to was one of the reasons this story got famous -- the other is the intense controversy surrounding the situation.

There is much to say about this, but beyond presenting the problem there's not much more I can say. Already, just being briefed about the situation, I realize how shallow the information I based my previous opinions on really was. That realization made it that much easier to just suspend opinion and gather data, and let the facts guide policy instead of sensationalist news or polarizing organizations without any local investment in the situation (had to bite my tongue, or typing fingers, not to link a few of the accused there).

As an example of the heatedness of the topic, I was out shopping for the final pieces of gear I'll need to do the work out at the Dam last night and ran right into it. Hard to find weatherproof, warm gloves that are thin enough you can write with them on. Anyway, I mentioned what I was getting the equipment for, and a thin, pimpled teen working the next aisle over said, "oh that about ruins my day... you are studying those things? I wish they'd just shoot them."

I mentioned that the situation is complex, and that one of the species of sea lions at the dam is endangered, so indiscriminate killing is really not a good idea. A few minutes later I heard we heard the kid mumble "I don't care if they're endangered, shoot em all." The salesmen helping me said, "he's just 18, so he gets a pass for being an idiot, we were all there once." This is true, but you can bet all his fishing buddies and probably his whole family feels the same way.

So I'm stepping into a bit of a cauldron here, but I'm excited to be doing direct observations of wildlife with intent to solve problems with the data. Real biology stuff, its exciting.

Time to pack it's gonna be colder than a well digger's ass out there.

Enjoy getting involved, even if it's not easy,



Trappin' Pat said...

I must admit that I was among the ones that said “shoot ‘em” but hearing that they are a variety that is endangered and there are more options I will be interested to hear a more viable option. (How ‘bout dam removal?)

Tate said...

Yeehaww for Dam removal, no i really get worked up about this shit, we cause a problem and then to fix the problem we cause a lot of little problems, and then when nature steps in we want to control or kill it.
If humans did this very thing we would be called either "inventive" or "evolving"

Tate said...

so how was the sea lion counting and watching?????

Bpaul said...

This is the early season, so our down-the-river locations for observation had nothing. But we got up by the dam and saw one Stellars dinking around a bit, dam they're big.

The best sighting of the day was an immature bald eagle tag a 2' sturgeon and head off with it. Very cool.

The seals and sea lions won't be in in force for another month or two, so right now we're basically providing "0" slots for the data, which is important for the timing of arrival information.

The wind cut right through me, I'll be adjusting my gear. It was about 35 degrees with approx. 25mph steady wind to the East. I.E. pretty fucking cold.

Was great to be outside, getting school credit, looking out for animals, and getting fieldwork experience.

Pretty quickly I fell back into "Fire Lookout" habits from back in the day, it was funny to notice. I did the whole "open eye scanning" where your whole field of vision is fuzzy and you only focus on movement or details that needed clarification, and this certain timing I had when I was doing the lookout came back to me. It's almost a robotic head turning-without-thinking-about it thing.

This should be another post in and of itself -- I'll repost it above.

Thanks for asking Tate, apparently I had a lot to say.

CtheG said...

"colder then a well diggers ass!"
that is classic and I'm keepin it. Hilarious.

Bpaul said...

CtheG -- my dad collects sayings like that, he's got hundreds of them.

I used that one a lot today, I like it. Just archaic enough to sound old timey, and just crass enough to have some grit -- plus some visuals, perfect.

Stu Farnham said...

"Colder than a witches tit,
colder than penguin shit,
colder than a polar bear's ass,
colder than a champagne glass!"

- Thomas Pynchon, 'Gravity's Rainbow'

(another cultural reference which fixes me in time as coming of age in the 60s)

CtheG said...

stu - you keep crackin me up.

Stu Farnham said...

re: dam removal

First, please understand that I can deeply about what has been done to the rivers of the PNW, and to the Snake and (most of all) the Columbia in particular. My emotions run from anger when I see the dams and the great, slow lakes, to deep sadness when I pass by the site of Celilo Falls.

I used to be an advocate for dam removal. As much as I would love to see the dams removed, we humans have once again boxed ourselves into a corner.

A familiarity with the near-term history of the PNW is helpful. Until the construction of the dams, most of the inland Northwest did not have electric power. Water was extremely scarce in an area that receives between 8-16 inches of rainfall per year, depending on where you look. Transportation of raw materials and gods to market was by wail, wagon, or, where roads permitted, motor vehicle.

Cities along the river were suject to devastating floods such as the Columbia River flood of 1890 and the flood which wiped out Vanport in 1947.

I point these out not to defend the dams, but to lay the foundation for how deeply intertwined and dependant the lives of the millions of people who live in the Columbia and Snake River drainages have become on the 'new' rivers. In order to displace the dams we need to restructure the ecomomies and the human geographies the surround and depend on them for electricity, irrigation, and transportation, and depend on the dams to regulate flood waters.

It's not as simple as just blowing up the dams, unfortunately. We've created a zero sum game between wildlife and humans.

Sad, so sad.