My wife and I just returned from a trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We found ourselves humming America the Beautiful all week as we toured our country’s iconic, natural features.

I added 15 new species of birds which I had never seen, including the American Dipper.

American dipper Dlthewave

While hiking, I heard two dippers calling to each other. They entertained us with their bobbing and swimming – unique behavior used to catch food.

The two parks we visited together equal almost 2.5 million acres of conserved lands. It reflects the impressive commitment earlier generations made to protect unique and important lands not only for our enjoyment, but also for the birds, elk, moose, deer, bison, antelope, bear, and wolves we saw. A number of these, bison and wolves, for example, had at one point almost become extinct in the region due to human impact. Now they thrive.

On this trip, I couldn’t help but think about our region here in Western Maine. As a flatlander, Maine has always been as exotic and iconic as Yellowstone and the Tetons. This trip reminded me we can’t take for granted the natural treasures we enjoy in the Mahoosucs.

As I’ve written in this column before, we are a gateway to the Northern Maine Forest, an almost 18-million-acre region designated as globally significant for birds. That is an area that is almost nine times the size of Yellowstone. I’m not suggesting we turn our region into a National Park. However, we are at a time when Americans with a long-term view need to take action to conserve and protect our woods and waters for the future.

Why, you ask? While out west, we were constantly reminded of the human-driven threats our natural places (and the creatures that live in them) face. Smoke from distant, massive forest fires obscured views and made our eyes water. A drought was underway, and the melting of glaciers in the high mountains is said to be accelerating. At the same time, Hurricane Ida devastated property and took lives across the Gulf Coast and up into the northeast. These events are becoming more and more normal as global temperatures rise.

Although Western Maine has not experienced the fires of the west nor the hurricanes of the south, we are not immune. Shorter, warmer winters, as well as habitat loss due to development, are trends that will impact our forests and the creatures who call them home.

Action by far-sighted citizens is needed now, and as overwhelming and complex as it seems, individuals can make a difference. The best way I’ve found? Get involved with one of the numerous organizations in our area working to conserve the woods and waters of Western Maine. My modest contributions of time and money don’t go far on their own, but when pooled together with hundreds of others committed to our region, it means I’m part of finding solutions for protecting America the Beautiful.

 

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected].

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