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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien

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Op-Ed

Mar 22, 2019

Dear Winter… An Open Letter To Snow, Ice and Jack Frost.

As the snow begins to melt, and the sun breaks through the clouds, Brooke Hess, with seasonal anxiety in tow, discusses her relationship with the seasons in an open letter.

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Dear Winter,

I awoke this morning to sunnier skies and warmer temps than I’ve experienced in months. The nearly 4-foot high snow drifts in my front yard have melted down to 2 feet, and the icy ruts in the road that prevented me from driving my 2-wheel drive vehicle around town are gone. People are out and about trail running, road biking, and enjoying the first sunshine of 2019.

Walking past the river, the seemingly endless ice dams covering the river from bank to bank, are gone. The ice has broken and the river is free-flowing once again. The banks are still covered in snow and ice, but being able to see moving water again is, in my book, the first official sign of Spring.

With this first sign of Spring comes my first feelings of seasonal anxiety. Prior to today, it was ski season. Temps never rose above freezing, and Spring activities weren’t an option. Skiing was the only option, and the only decision I needed to make was which drainage in the Bitterroot Mountains I wanted to explore that day. But today, I find myself in a dilemma. Do I continue skiing and enjoying the slightly safer backcountry conditions that Spring brings? Or do I break out my boat, paddle, and enjoy the first Spring river runs of the season?

Realistically, it is still ski season in the mountains. It has not warmed up enough to melt the snow up high, and some of the bigger backcountry lines are actually just now becoming stable enough for skiers. Again, rationally, temperatures in town are still in the lower 40’s. There is still ice on the river banks, and the river levels are low. It is not kayaking season.

And yet, I can’t help but feel the itch to get into my boat. It has been way too long since I have felt the splash of whitewater on my face. Since I have felt nervous at the top of a rapid. Since I have had the satisfaction of being taken down the river by gravity. But when I think about it, this is also what I did in the fall with skiing. As soon as the first storm came in November, I was skinning up the local ski area, nearly a month before it opened up for the season. Just so I could get a few good turns in. It wasn’t yet ski season, but I was so eager for the season to change… so eager to see you, Winter, that I ignored this fact. I was thinking in terms of the future. Not in terms of the present. I couldn’t wait for you, Winter. But that was then, and this is now.

It’s not that I don’t love you, Winter.

I’m not seasonally confused. But I am over it. I am over the icy ruts in the road. I am over having to put on my expedition parka and pack boots just to take out the trash. I am over having to turn on my car 20 minutes before I need to head out in the morning, just to thaw the nearly centimeter-thick ice layer on my windshield. I am over waking up 30 minutes early to shovel the sidewalk. I am over you, Winter.

It’s not that I don’t love you, Winter. I do. I love the snow. I love skiing. I love ice skating. I love drinking whiskey cocoa after a cold day in the mountains. I love it all.

But I have gotten everything out of my relationship with you that I can. I am ready to go kayaking again. I am ready to go trail running in shorts. I am ready for barbecues and campfires. Bike rides and river runs. I am ready for something new. I am moving on.

Spring understand me better. Spring and I share the same plans for the future. We share the same values that you, Winter, just don’t have.

So, with that, I am ending our monogamous relationship. But I am just wondering… can we stay friends?

After all, December is only nine months away…

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Environment

May 14, 2019

Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

This article was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic Kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird. Wellingtonians are known for their love of flat whites and their passion for the arts. But there’s a new pastime that’s rapidly growing in New Zealand’s capital and all around the country.

Assembling and setting traps for rats, stoats and other predators in their own backyards. It’s a somewhat unlikely hobby, but in Wellington alone, there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management.  They’re all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world and a paradise for native birds such as the tīeke (Saddleback), hihi (stitchbird), kākā, kākāriki and toutouwai (North Island robin). 

In Wellington alone there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world. Photo by: Capital Kiwi

Ever since conservation project Zealandia created a fully fenced 225-hectare ecosanctuary within the city limits in 1999, native birdlife has returned to many suburbs and Wellingtonians have embraced their avian friends. The groups are part of a groundswell of community conservation initiatives sweeping New Zealand and delivering fantastic results.

“Where once it would have been a remarkable sight to see a single kākā (a boisterous native parrot) in the wilderness of our mountain ranges, we now have literally hundreds of them across Wellington city, screeching across city skies,” says self-confessed “bird nerd” Paul Ward. Buoyed by the birdsong orchestra he thought, “Why stop there? Let’s bring back New Zealand’s most iconic bird, the Kiwi.” “The only time I’d seen a Kiwi growing up was in a zoo, and that’s not right for our national taonga (treasure),” he insists. 

The flightless birds with hair-like feathers and the chopstick bill have been absent from Wellington for over a century due to the loss of their habitat and the spread of predators. Ward’s ambitious project Capital Kiwi hopes to lure Kiwi back to the Wellington region within the next decade. Approximately 4,400 traps will be set on 23,000 hectares of public and private land stretching from the outskirts of town to the coast.

“Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime”

As long as stoats, ferrets and weasels are around, Kiwi chicks have hardly any chance of surviving their first year.  An average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each day according to charity ‘Kiwis for Kiwi’ which supports community-led initiatives around the country. They warn that at this rate “Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.” 

But projects in Rakiura / Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand, Whangarei Heads in the north and Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty have shown that with the involvement of the community as kaitiaki (guardians) it is possible to grow a wild Kiwi population. 

The project Capital Kiwi hopes to bring New Zealand’s iconic birds back to Wellington by setting more than 4,000 traps in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Photo by: Capital Kiwi.

Michelle Impey, from Kiwis for Kiwi explains that one of the challenges of Kiwi conservation is “getting people to understand and care about something they can’t see and don’t experience.”

Kiwis are nocturnal, and with only a few exceptions live far removed from cities, towns and villages. “Bringing Kiwi closer to where Kiwis live makes them top of mind, completely relevant, and creates a sense of ownership with those who are privileged enough to have them living on or near their land,” Impey adds. She hopes that the new project will create “a city of Kiwi conservationists” who feel a personal attachment to their national bird. 

In August 2018 the government’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, which aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural wildlife by 2050, announced their support for Capital Kiwi, committing more than NZ$3.2 million over the next five years.  It may sound like a lot of money, but the other way of looking at this is “What is the cost if we don’t?” Ward ponders.

“Can we, as a nation of Kiwis, afford to let our national icon die and become extinct? What would that say about us as guardians of the taonga (treasure) that makes our country so special and unique?”

https://www.outdoorjournal.com/featured/environment/reaction-european-single-use-plastic-ban/

Ninety-year-old Ted Smith, who lives in the small seaside settlement of Makara just over the hills from Wellington, helped to kick off the project with the setting of the first trap in November. He and his local community started trapping in their backyards a decade ago which resulted in a remarkable increase in birdlife – tūī, kākā, kererū, pūkeko, kingfishers, quails and others. “If we allow Kiwi to die out then we deserve to be called idiots,” he says. Wellingtonians love the vision of having Kiwi rummaging through their gardens and Ward says he’s been overwhelmed with the offers of help and support from the community.  

“We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington”

Capital Kiwi has received hundreds of emails from people keen to help. Schoolchildren are now monitoring tracking tunnels, mountain bikers and trail runners check reserve trap lines on lunchtime rides and families come together to build traps. If the eradication proves successful after three years, the Department of Conservation will look at translocating Kiwi to the hillsides. The hope is that in less than a decade, tourists will be able to post their Kiwi encounters on the outskirts of Wellington on social media, and locals will beam with pride at hearing the shrill call of the country’s iconic birds in their backyards. 

“I would love to be woken up by the sound of the Kiwi. We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington,” the capital’s Major Justin Lester says. 

The Department of Conservation is backing Capital Kiwi too. “Getting Kiwi back into the hills of Wellington where people can hear them call is a great way to demonstrate what New Zealand could look like if we get rid of the stoats and ferrets,” DOC’s Jack Mace says. 

“It would certainly add another feather to Wellington’s cap as one of the best places to see New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Cover Photo: New Zealand’s little spotted Kiwi at Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington. Photo by: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary

 

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