|NSS Home Page Nature Sounds Newsletter Winter 1995 NSS Presence at the Watchable Wildlife Conference|
NSS Presence at the Watchable Wildlife Conference
by Mark Goddard, Newsletter Editor and Paul Matzner, Founder
The rapid economic and technological changes affecting the world, country and the local community are similarly affecting the environmental protection movement. Among the many public and private efforts to preserve wild lands, there is a nationwide program to preserve, protect and interpret areas with particularly good wildlife viewing. The locations are identified from roadways by a brown sign with white binoculars on it. A set of guides, each guide representing a participating state, provides interested folks with geographical locations, road directions, color photographs and seasonal species descriptions for each location. The booklets are lightweight, attractive and easy to use. This program is known as the Watchable Wildlife Program.
The annual Watchable Wildlife Conference is a gathering ground for people from a broad range of professional communities and academic backgrounds. This year's fourth annual conference, held in Estes Park, Colorado between September 18th and 22nd, drew many individuals. They came to network and share ideas and represented all levels of governmental and non-governmental organizations; national, state and local, including interpretive specialists, biologists, resource managers and park planners; entrepreneurial minds presenting Eco-tourism ideas, and suppliers for the amateur and professional wildlife watcher alike; and teachers of both field and classroom students.
All topics surrounding the issue of how we preserve our natural resources were presented. Where do we get funds to purchase and manage lands? How do we keep them accessible to public viewership while protecting species and habitats? What money-making strategies in the out-of-doors are ethical? What is our role and responsibility level as a member species of planet earth in preserving the balance? And above all, should there be a tax that people pay to go out and watch wildlife?
There were clear cases on both sides of the arguments. The affirmative side points out that the revenues from hunting and fishing have gone down considerably and that the trend will continue, and conversely, that the number of people going out and watching wildlife has increased dramatically. Also, those who venture forth into the elements have better than average incomes and spend a good amount on their interest. The other side of the debate concerns people's reactions to being taxed for yet something else. Particularly, the right to go out and view birds as they always have... for free. Fears were raised that a tax would deter wildlife viewing. No concrete conclusions were made about this issue, and ethical issues were raised in various camps such as, should hunting be allowed at wildlife watching locations?
The big news for members is that the conference represents a "coming of age" for the Nature Sounds Society as a resource organization. The NSS was ably represented by Paul Matzner, founder, Mark Goddard, newsletter editor and Dick Hingson, conservation consultant to the Society. Dick is also a Sierra Club conservation analyst with a special focus on commercial and military overflights in our parks and wild places.
Paul's conference presentation contained vibrant energy and fresh ideas about the value of quietude, the resource of natural quiet in parks, watchable wildlife site planning, the creative use of nature sounds. Paul also emphasized nature sound interpretation as a means of enriching environmental education and public awareness. His speech brought him undivided attention and applause.
Dick happened to be collecting overflight data in Rocky Mountain National Park at the time of the conference. He had recently been appointed by the National Park Service for the summer to systematically collect baseline data for long-term studies of the effect of noise on National Parks (pursuant to the publication of the Aircraft Overflight Study published by the National Parks in October last year). In the weeks preceding the conference, Dick had been collecting data in Zion National Park and had arrived in Estes Park coincidentally, ready to begin studies at Rocky Mountain National Park (Our National Parks As "Bowling Alleys"? on page 12). He was therefore, able and willing to attend the conference, both as representative of the Society and of the Park Service, and was on hand to discuss the noise issue. He described the nature of his work, with equipment at hand for demonstration (continued page 13) purposes, an excellent exposure for the cause of reorganizing flights in sensitive park areas.
Mark spoke about and demonstrated the value of computer technology in conjunction with information access on the Internet. He exposed onlookers to the wealth of written and graphical information, pertinent to the environmental movement, that resides on the Internet-including downloadable sound resources of animal calls. Mark also showed the value of using electronic media as an effective means of intra- and interorganizational communication.
The conference represented a milestone for the Society in presenting the issue of quietude and its importance to environmental specialists. The movement to promote watchable wildlife is strong and vital, representing some of the most knowledgeable and talented amateurs and professionals in the area of wildlife stewardship. The missing element, according to Paul Matzner, has been acknowledgment, as the resource of nature sound, often the most prominent and exciting evidence of the presence of wildlife. As Society members well know, many of the sites designated in these watchable guides are precisely the sites that nature sound recordists to find are quiet recording locations. Other sites are currently quiet but in imminent danger of losing that quality. Still others are full of visual beauty but lack peace and quiet, being close to highways and in the path of commercial flights, or inundated by so called "flightseeing". As demonstrated by the sharp interest at this conference in the nature sound resource and quietude, the Watchable Wildlife Conference is a fertile ground for the Society to pursue its conservation and other educational goals. Vital connections were made at the conference with wildlife professionals around the country.
Next year's conference will be held in California in September. Paul Matzner has already been invited to present a follow-up presentation and/or panel that will further spearhead this issue and define its place in the Watchable Wildlife movement. We invite members to join us next year at the conference, and we expect to have an even stronger presence. More information about the conference will be in the next newsletter. In the meantime interested persons may contact Paul Matzner or Mark Goddard at the Society office at 510-238-7482.
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