Monday, December 31, 2007

Alternative Commute Resolutions

I have never actually made new years resolutions before and am not likely to start now. I have, however made resolutions at other times of the year. A few years ago I resolved to change my commuting habits to be more friendly for the environment.  I have achieved great success in this area.

For 2007 here are my statistics:

  • Rode the bus - 129 times
  • Telecommuted - 48 times
  • Bicycled - 18 times
  • Drove a single occupancy vehicle - 8 times.

I am reasonably pleased with these results. I would, of course, like the bike riding to be higher and the driving to be lower. The car dependency were primarily for errands, a couple of volunteer activities, and to travel to offsite alternative transportation meetings which occur at  location that public transportation doesn't serve (yeah, it seems crazy to me too).

Many people feel that alternative transportation is an inconvenience. It also doesn't serve all locations. For me it serves me well and I have grown very accustomed to its many conveniences. My work is 8 miles from my house. It is just under a 1 mile walk to the bus stop and then a straight shot on the bus to my work. While it consumes more time than driving, all of that time is beneficial, while little time spent driving is considered such. Here are some of the specific advantages that I have realized:

  • Better for the environment.  I am actually walking the talk on issue which I champion.
  • Listen to books on tape, podcasts, and college coursework on my ipod.  I am much more able to concentrate than while driving.
  • Less stress. When I do drive to work I get frustrated with the traffic which I don't even notice on the bus.
  • Financial - sold one of our cars, insurance rates decreased (one less car and lower annual mileage on existing car), gas, maintenance, etc.
  • Health - close to 2 miles a day of additional walking. This could be a negative as I sometimes have to walk on busy streets where the air pollution is very poor and cars are always trying to kill you (walking or cycling).

So if you are considering a new years resolution, think about alternative transportation. One you start it's hard to go back.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day Birding

Karyn and I were spending Christmas with just ourselves this year. We had celebrated with family the day before as they all had other commitments for Christmas day.

Christmas morning presented us with some bright sunshine here in Boise. I had been hoping for some great sunshine the last few times we went out birdwatching. Today would be the day. After breakfast and entertaining the cat wit her new toys, we headed out along the Boise River for photography and bird watching. The weather was a beautiful 29 degrees (F) with little or no breeze. The sunshine was perfect for photography. As soon as we got on the river we found these Common Mergansers. (click on image to see a larger version).
Its fun to watch the Mergansers fishing. They swim upstream with their heads under the water looking for fish. A female Belted Kingfisher was fishing nearby, but I just wasn't able to get the shot I wanted. Further down the river was the first of many Great Blue Herons. This one was more than willing to pose for us.
The others were perched in trees. Three in one group and a number of individuals here and there along our 4 mile hike. We were really hoping to find some Bald Eagles today. We have struck out the last two times we have hiked the river. Today we would not be disappointed.
This was the first of at least two we would see today (we saw three, but believe one was a repeat).
Further down the trail we would find a Sharp-shinned Hawk. I would move through the brush to get a better shot, but I never put it together. The large frozen pond in front of the Hawk would prevent me from getting too close. I got some photos good enough for identification, but nothing special. The next special raptor sighting was what we thought was a couple of Rough-legged Hawks (My friends on the IBLE List have verified that these are Red-tailed Hawks instead of Rough-legged Hawks. IBLE=Idaho Birders Linked Electronically). The first bird was perched in a tree. I was taking photos when it started to fly, so I snapped a shot. I didn't actually see the second Hawk coming in to chase it from its perch.
The lower Hawk in the picture is swooping in to attack the upper bird. Its not the clearest photo, but a great action shot. The original Hawk stayed on its perch after the attack and then flew off to a nearby tree as you can see in this photo.
I accidentally clipped this shot as I snapped the photo, but I liked the rounded form as it cupped the air for lift. There were lots of other great birds out there today as well, but these were the highlights. What a great way to spend a Christmas day. I hope yours was fruitful as well. Have a great holiday!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Idaho Wolf Plan

The Idaho wolf plan from the Idaho Fish and Game Department is out for public comment. They will be accepting comments until December 31. Listed below are the various ways to submit comments. I submitted mine through the online web forum. I would have liked a little better confirmation that the comments were actually received, but I liked the fact that it captured comments in specific areas of the plan.  This in theory will enable them to more closely align the comments with the specific areas of the plan in which they are targeted. Here are the possible ways to submit comments:

The main points that I made are:

We have not yet reached the carrying capacity for wolves in the state.  Since we currently have greater than 700 wolves in the state, the capacity is somewhat higher than this. The only management numbers identified in the proposal is to lower the population to close to 104 wolves. This would be less than 15% of the carrying capacity. One of the "objectives" of the plan is to allow wolves to fulfill their ecological role in the ecosystem. 15% or less of the carrying capacity will mean that we will get at most 15% of the benefit, but probably lower. To truly gain ecosystem wide advantage a population much closer to the carrying capacity would be required.  I believe the limit to be greater than 80% of the carrying capacity.

Another of the objectives stated in the plan is to promote populations in border areas so that populations can intermix with populations in other states and to disperse to new states. To reasonably accomplish this, those populations would have to be maintained near the carrying capacity.  Competition with other wolves is a primary reason for wolf dispersals into other areas. 104 wolves is way too few to accomplish this objective.

Two of the objectives stated in the plan relate directly to hunting. The first is to allow hunting of wolves and the second is to allow multiple different ways of hunting wolves. These seem entirely inappropriate for a management plan.  Hunting should be a tool in the plan, but not an objective of the plan.

Another objective in the plan is to use hunting to minimize conflicts with other wildlife and with livestock. This objective clearly points out the bias in the plan.   The fish and game believe that elk must be protected from wolves.  These two creatures co-evolved together for thousands of years, yet we believe that we must interfere.  We need these two creatures to maintain their own ecosystem balance without our interference. I do support hunting to decrease conflicts with livestock with some exceptions.  First, I do not believe that wolves should be killed for killing livestock on public lands. This is a risk that livestock managers should face for using all of our lands. The ecosystems on our public lands are critical and we must return the health of the ecosystem by enabling the keystone predator to take its full position (full carrying capacity).

My overall suggestion for the plan is to let the wolf population grow until we discover the true carrying capacity of the state.  We can then enable hunting along the edges of public land to decrease conflicts with livestock on private land.   The total population of wolves should not be allowed to drop below 80% of the total carrying capacity.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Early Season Skiing

The weather in Idaho has not been conducive to a great nordic ski season so far.  The first major storm, which would have jump started the season, came through a bit too warm. We have received snowfall since then, but it is still thin in McCall and Sun Valley, and non-existent at Bogus Basin near Boise.  With that said, I do have 4 ski days in so far, all of them in Sun Valley. This is the least amount of early season skiing I have had in the past 8 years. Last year at this time I had 10 days in! I should note that had I been willing to travel out of state for the Thanksgiving break, my numbers would definitely look better.

The first day skiing was the day after Thanksgiving. Karyn and I met some friends in Sun Valley to ski on the very thin base. It was definitely "rock ski" weather as the gravel mixed into the snow caused significant damage to the bases of our skis. The first few kilometers of the season are always a bit rough as your muscles work to recover the memory of the ski motions. After a few kilometers your form starts to develop and the fun begins. Then at about 10 to 15 kilometers your body starts its revolt. The shoulders tense up, lower back starts to ache, and form starts to degrade. It takes focus to keep it together. I finished the 24km exhausted. It was a very successful first day out!  The snow was even thinner the second day out.  We decided not to ski on the final day of the weekend as the snow was too thin and we were two tired from our first two days on snow.

This last weekend we returned to Sun Valley.  They had received 10-15 inches more snow since our first visit. Much more of the trail system had been groomed in.  We chose a fairly flat section to work on some steady distance. The sky was crystal clear and the snow was just right. It was awesome. On our second day, the temperature was a very chilly 7 degrees below zero (F)! This made the snow crystal sharper and slower requiring significantly more effort. The cold temperature wasn't a big deal as we had the right gear. It only took a kilometer or two for our lungs to adapt.

The bad news is that both of my shoulder joints have been bothering me during and after skiing. This getting old kind of sucks. I hope I can work through it during the next few weeks.   I have three big races that I am targeting for this ski season. The first is a 36km race in Bend Oregon called the Great Nordeen. I have skied in this race once before. The second is the 32km Boulder Mountain Tour in Sun Valley. This race is usually the biggest event that I participate in.  The last, which I will enter only if my fitness is in top shape, is the Masters World Championships being held this year in McCall Idaho. The Masters Worlds have a 45km and a 30km race that I would consider entering. I have no expectations of placing in any of these events, just completing the events with a strong personal performance. For now, we must wish for snow.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Pedestrian Killed

What is it with traffic in the Boise area these days? This morning another person was killed by a car. That brings the 2 month accident total in the valley to at least 7, with 5 fatalities! This morning it was a three year old child. I am not implying that each case was the fault of the drivers, but in at least two of the cases drugs and alcohol were involved (by the drivers not the pedestrians) and arrests have been made.

Dec 5 - Child hit by car. Killed.
Dec 2 - Woman killed in intersection.
Nov 30 - Woman killed in intersection.
Nov 29 - Four-year-old girl hit, killed.
Nov 28 - Construction worker hit by car (injured)
Nov 26 - Car strikes 12-year old after running light.
Oct 19 - Woman bicyclist killed while waiting for a stop light.

One possible explanation, although I don't buy it: Police think gas prices increasing the number of pedestrians.

As a cyclist and pedestrian myself, this has certainly captured my attention. I am a lot more alert as I walk to and from the bus each day. Just this morning I was crossing in the cross walk with a walk signal as a car turning toward me crossed my path as if I wasn't even there. I had to step back out of his way. I wasn't surprised to see him talking on his cell phone.

Another accident:
Dec 7: Girl, 13, hit by car, appears to be OK

Dec 14 - 14 year old boy on bike hit by car - boy cited.
Dec 15 - 16 year old woman hit by car, driver cited.

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