Birding, brunch and a boost for the wilderness | VailDaily.com

Birding, brunch and a boost for the wilderness

Carolyn Pope
Carolyn Pope/Special to the Daily
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“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of our biotic community,” said Aldo Leopold, author of “Sand County Almanac.”On Sept. 3, 1964, the U.S. Congress an set forth the Wilderness Act, defining wilderness as:”A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. “An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic or historical value.”It’s been 40 years since the act was written and less than 10 years since Kim Langmaid founded the Gore Range Natural Science School. One of the school’s goals is “Aspiring Stewardship,” which attempts to encourage residents to manage lives and property with proper regard to the rights of others.

“Others” in this sense includes those beyond human scope – nature, animals, our land and our environment.Chelsea Smasal of St. Louis is a 9-year-old veteran of Gore Range Natural Science School, and through her classes at there has truly become a steward of the environment. From sieving for water bugs to building a beaver dam, the gal knows her dirt.”It’s fun and you learn stuff,” she said. “It’s really hard to build a beaver dam. You’ve got to be really careful not to squash through the layers of mud.”But quashing through layers of mud is only the top of the proverbial beaver dam. From snowmobiles damaging deeper layers of snow, trapping pocket gophers, destroying undergrowth and scavenging some antlers and bones that take away much needed calcium from the animals that gnaw on them, it’s the little things that can make a big dent in the wilderness.The Gore Range Natural Science School offers 15,000 residents and guests short, interpretive courses, as well as adult and youth programs. Also included in their programs are the “Ed-venture” programs for donors who give at least $1,000.00 per year. Each time I have the opportunity to join in on one of these programs I am astounded how much I learn – even for a native Colorado girl. The most recent “ed-venture” I joined was “Birding and Brunch” at the Knapp Ranch, underwritten by Woody and Mimi Stockwell.Guests were led through the extensive natural area around the Knapp Ranch, and though birds were not being totally cooperative that morning, the area provides abundant resources for learning about the world around us.

For example, did you know that birds have at least four different chirps? They can indicate the bird is happy, afraid, looking for a mate or merely being territorial.If you want to make a difference through Gore Range Natural Science School, donations are, of course welcome. But if time is your preferred way to give back, there is a newly formed volunteer group called “Just for GRNSS” – which, playing on its acronym, the school pronounces “Just for Grins.” Created in part by Montine Hansl, volunteers from all ages are welcomed – and needed.”Traditionally, women tend to be the volunteers, but we want this organization to be comprised of all the people in the valley who are concerned about its future,” she said.No doubt, it’s time to enrich and diversify the perception of our valley so it’s seen as more than a “playground for the privileged,” – a place where residents and guests can gain a new set of eyes and experiences to take with them throughout their lives.

==========================================To learn moreThose interested in volunteering with the Gore Range Natural Science School can attend an open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Avon Pubic Library. Details regarding volunteer opportunities will be shared, including field chaperones and photographers, summer markets, marketing and outreach. Call 827-9725, ext. 13, for more information.==========================================