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At first glance, South Park appears to be a never ending expanse of shortgrass prairie. However, within this high mountain grassland, peatlands occur, or more specifically fens. South Park’s fens are home to many globally rare plant species, including several that can only be found in the great northern boreal belt.

JOIN US on Saturday August 6th as we explore one of South Park’s most unique landscapes. Our first-ever Fen Field Class will be led by Denise Culver, a botanist/ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Denise has been mucking around Colorado’s wetlands for over 20 years, She is also the co-author of the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetlands: Identification, Ecology and Conservation (pictured above).

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You’ll definitely get your feet wet, but you’ll also learn so much more about why South Park is such a truly special place! For more on the upcoming Fen Field Class, and how to register, click here!

 

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The Milky Way, above the Main House at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. (photo taken by 2015 HistoriCorps volunteer Larry Glass)

Taking full advantage of South Park’s dark skies, on July 9th we will be hosting the first of many Star Nights at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Join astronomy author Jeff Kanipe for a telescopic tour of the summer sky, including the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters, and the billowy star clouds of the Milky Way.

Join us for this fun and informative night under the stars (weather permitting of course). Lodgings are available at several Fairplay motels just 15 minutes away, or come early and pitch your tent at the ranch! Snacks and hot drinks will be provided during star gazing, along with coffee and dutch oven biscuits in the morning.

For more on the Star Night fee, and how to register, click here!

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Jeff Kanipe is the author of numerous books on astronomy, including A Skywatcher’s Year, Chasing Hubble’s Shadows, The Cosmic Connection, along with his recent effort, a multivolume guide to celestial objects, Annals of the Deep Sky.

We have many more Summer Ranch Programs coming up; everything from the geology of South Park, to nature drawing, and haiku poetry. For more on what’s ahead, here’s our Summer 2016 schedule!

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Worlds above and worlds below. With special thanks to Larry Glass for his terrific nightime shots at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

Thanks to a planning grant from the Borgen Family Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Land Library has been working hard this winter on renovation plans for Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Soon we’ll be carefully adapting this historic ranch, and creating a residential library devoted to people and the land.

Here’s a terrific new video on what’s ahead. Thanks to Winton Media for telling the Land Library’s story so well!

Watch, enjoy, share, and HELP the Land Library grow!

For much more information, here’s Your Trail Guide to the Rocky Mountain Land Library, or write jeff@landlibrary.org!

 

Land Library Special First Friday

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It’s always a thrill to add one more volume of W.S. Merwin’s poetry to the Land Library’s shelves. Our latest addition, What is a Garden? is a wonderful collaboration between Merwin’s words, and the vivid tropical images from photographer Larry Cameron.

Poet and environmentalist W.S. Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1976 and has spent the last forty years planting nineteen acres with more than 800 species of palm, creating a lush garden on a ruined former pineapple plantation.

PBS correspondent (and fellow poet) Jeffrey Brown visited W.S. Merwin at his Hawaii home, and captured the inspirational work of one of America’s greatest poets (& conservationists!):

 

 

For more on W.S. Merwin work in Hawaii, be sure to visit The Merwin Conservancy’s excellent website. Their mission is to preserve the living legacy of W.S. Merwin, his home and palm forest, for future retreat and study for botanists and writers, and for the benefit of environmental advocacy and community education.

I hope to be able to go on planting palms on this land for a long time, and I regard what has been done here so far as just a beginning….I hope that a future head gardener will have something of the same desire that I have had: to try to grow as many species as possible of the world’s palms….That is the abiding part of our hope that a Conservancy will want and will be able to save this bit of the Peahi streambed — what we have made here for those who come after us.” — W.S.Merwin

 

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W.S. Merwin is a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, winner of a National Book Award, and twice served as the United States Poet Laureate. Recently he was honored as the 2015 Champion of the Land by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

The Poetry Foundation has much more on W.S. Merwin on their always informative website!

Water will always be a central issue reflected in the Land Library’s growing collection of books. Here’s just a few new acquisitions!

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Alok Jha’s The Water Book: The Extraordinary Story of Our Most Ordinary Substance — from one of Britain’s leading science journalists, this is a fascinating story of one of the world’s strangest molecules. Also pictured above, Sustainable Water: Challenges and Solutions from California, edited by Allison Lassiter, and written by leading policy makers, economists, ecologists, engineers and planners, all offering lessons on increasing resilience in a water-limited world.

 

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Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home by Michelle Mulder, part of one of our favorite kid’s environmental science series, Orca Footprints. This book is packed with information and inspiration from across the globe. Nancy Bo Flood’s Water Runs Through This Book combines science and poetry in a convincing call to action, that is also high on hope!

 

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For more on water’s central role in the unfolding history of Colorado, there’s no better book that Stephen Grace’s The Great Divide (the companion book to a wonderful film). From archaeological evidence of ancient Native American reservoirs, to current day water shortages, this book offers deep insight into the complex world of water in the West.

For more good water-related books, and to learn about the Land Library’s plans for a special riverside Watershed Library at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, you might enjoy one of our earlier posts:

Water in the West & Beyond

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“Palani Mohan first made contact in 2013, sending me a selection of photographs from his numerous trips to the Altai Mountains in the far western reaches of Mongolia. It is a vast and unforgiving landscape, where temperatures routinely drop to minus forty degrees celsius in winter, and where the skies are filled with forbidding lenticular cloud formations. During the long winters the burkitshi (eagle-hunters) leave their homes with horse and eagle, and head into the mountains to hunt for several days at a time. Palani’s photographs struck me as forcefully as conveying not only the hard beauty of this wild and seemingly empty terrain, but also, more significantly, the intense relationship that the hunter forges with his eagle. It is this bond of mutual respect and trust that defines the life of the burkitshi and gives it profound meaning.” — Hugh Merrell, from the foreword.

With over eighty doutone images, Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs is one of the most visually stunning books the Land Library has seen in a very long time. As award-winning photographer Palani Mohan explains in his introduction, this is a culture under threat. There are no more than fifty hunters left, and that alone motivated Mohan to record this unique relationship between man and bird.

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The golden eagle is a perfect predator, with an awe-inspiring wingspan, a beak built to rend flesh, and talons that can kill prey instantly by piercing the heart. A fox is easy prey, and when hunting in pairs, eagles are capable of bringing down a wolf — Palani Mohan

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“Madina, a 63-year old Kazakh wearing a fox-skin coat, cradles his six-year old eagle in his arms. ‘They love to be carried in such a way. It makes them feel loved and relaxes them, just like a baby‘, he told me.”

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“Even though the eagles are kept in the hunters’ homes, they remain wild birds with a finely honed killer instinct.”

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“I sat in a rocky crevice and found myself listening to the wind roaring around the contours of the mountains and whipping the grass, ever-changing in tone and volume, and becoming deafening at times. As the hours wore on, I thought about everything but also nothing, and felt utterly at peace. With only nature’s symphony and my silent guide for company, I experienced one of the most memorable moments of my time in Mongolia.”

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Palani Mohan’s work has appeared in the pages of National Geographic, and he is also the author of Vanishing Giants: Elephants of Asia. For much more, please visit Palani Mohan’s website!

And here’s two related books from the Land Library’s collection:
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Both by naturalist Stephen Bodio: An Eternity of Eagles, a natural and cultural history of eagles across the globe, and Bodio’s own field report from the land of the Kazakhs: Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia.

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Many years ago, Colorado ecologist David Cooper compared the high mountain grasslands of South Park to the steppes of Mongolia. With Buffalo Peaks Ranch (the Land Library’s headwaters site) located in the middle of South Park, no wonder we keep adding Mongolian books to our collection. They are some of our favorite books!

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