Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our wildflowers are in trouble, folks...

Beauty in the Details...Lately, I've become quite frustrated over the ever increasing numbers of professed wildflower lovers, photographers and others who, in their zealous efforts to enjoy these Spring treasures, are causing damage to public and private property as well as to the flowers themselves. Enough already!

This year, I have arrived on scene at several popular locations only to find people jumping fences, tripod-toting photographers standing in the road who wouldn't even budge for oncoming traffic, picnickers with blankets spread out in the middle of the flower displays, dogs running loose, hikers trampling "lesser" blooms to get to prime areas, children picking flowers for bouquets that probably won't make it through the end of the day, etc. People were leaving piles of trash and even driving off the road right into the fields of flowers to get closer.

Apricot Mallow
It has been heartbreaking to watch such flagrant disregard for the very gems we all seek. Property owners justifiably are angry and concerned about liability. Recently, there have been threats of prosecution for trespassers, law enforcement called for crowd control, etc. On March 30, Carol Leigh even decided to stop publishing her well-known CalPhoto Wildflower Hotsheet out of concern for the flowers and locations in which these beauties live.

Of course, there are plenty of other online reports, newspaper articles and TV stories during the season. Even I had compiled a list of online resources for wildflower reports on my other blog, Spirits Dancing In The Heart of The Wind. I have now transferred it here, but with information limited to public lands, parks, etc. I don't think one can stop the flow of seasonal bloom information, but perhaps if people are educated about the fragility of these environments, they will be more respectful when they do visit.

Luscious LarkspurIn the aftermath of all this controversy, I started thinking about what I personally might be able to do to help. I'm an educator by trade as well as a photographer, fine artist and writer. And of course, I'm absurdly passionate about nature and wildflowers. Probably my favorite subject matter creatively. I'm also at a point where I can no longer stand by and watch the devastation. So I've come up with a plan and an organization: The "Wildflower Conservancy."

This is my very first post under that umbrella, and it feels both daunting and exciting. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me if I'm to create true value with this project. But in what I view as a miraculous bit of serendipity, on March 30th, I was able to reserve the name "wildflowerconservancy" for .com, .net, and .org domains. I've paid the registration fees, and once I learn web design (!), I'll have the site up and running. 

So Many Stars
I've also started looking into what might be involved in setting up a non-profit corporation. (Sometimes, it's handy to work with lawyers!  LOL!) None of this is likely to happen overnight -- well, except this blog of course -- but I believe there's a great future for this kind of educational enterprise.

Initially, I've envisioned wildflower presentations for children in grades K-6 as well as scout troops and other youth organizations. If I can get to kids early enough, hopefully, they will learn to appreciate and respect nature. With luck, they might even get their parents to wake up and smell the grape soda lupine. I taught children's improvisational theater for a number of years, and I've seen first hand how a creative approach can make a huge difference in learning for students as well as their families. (They take their enthusiasm home and share it.)  I will offer these children's educational presentations for free, so I shouldn't have to fight a heck of a lot of bureaucratic madness.

Transcendent Moments
Beyond that, I have lots of ideas to help raise awareness in local communities and nature-oriented groups as well as the settings where wildflowers abound each year.  I will add pages to this blog and eventually to the website with educational information, guidelines for responsible wildflower enjoyment, links to resources and organizations that promote same, etc.

I'm not a wildflower expert by any means, but I am passionate about their preservation, so I figure I'll learn as I go. I'll probably make mistakes, despite my good intentions. But my heart and soul are definitely in this. I welcome your suggestions and feedback. Thank you kindly for your support of this venture.

Kahlee Brighton
The Wildflower Conservancy


  1. Nice post and concept!

    As the daughter of a landscape gardener who walked the manicured estates as child, I learned early to stay on the paths and enjoy the beauty not stomp it out, that picked flowers will never be next years seeds.

    I cringed when I watched a local news caster encouraging people to come enjoy the flowers while standing behind the fence in the middle of the flowers.

    I hope you success in this adventure

  2. Thank you, Carol. I think many of us learned in our youth that nature is to be respected. I'm not sure that message is getting out any more, so, hopefully, I can make at least a small difference.

  3. Excellent, Kahlee. Best of luck with this noble endeavour.

    Like you, I get very upset when I see people trash, litter, and dis-respect nature and others' property. It is extremely maddening and dis-heartening.

  4. Hi Kahlee- Carol Leigh stopped by my gallery today (she lives just up the road in Waldport) and pointed me to your new endeavor.

    It was sad and ironic that her (and your) admirable instinct to share ended up being bad for the plants.

    I hope that your efforts will succeed in shaping some of these people up!

  5. I hope this isn't off subject, but several mionths ago the L A Times Travel section ran a story on a local tide pool, complete with a picture of children out on the rocks where many little creatures live. They published my letter pointing out the trampling of living animals; hopefuly at least a few will think twice next time they come accross a tide pool. With today's overwhelming amount of virtual entertainment available, I fear each generation is losing its connnection with the natural world. Kahlee, you are taking one more fighting step towards respect for all life. Thank you for everything you do.

  6. Thank you, Leon, Bob and Sue. Sue, while not directly relevant to wildflowers, your concern over the tidepools is right along the same lines. Thank you for writing the Times about it. So often, in our absolute amazement at the glories of the natural world, we don't realize that we may be disrupting the very life we wish to enjoy. Policing behavior won't work; my hope is that education will. Again, thank you all for your encouragement and support.

  7. Brilliant idea! Having a blog to inform about your advocacy is a great start. It's about time to educate people and let them know how to be responsible and help conserving and protecting wildflowers. I'm a nature a lover as well, and it makes me angry to see people not caring about it.

  8. Thanks, Cindy. Ironically, the group that is the most reluctant to embrace the idea of wildflower preservation is photographers. Many are unwilling to do anything to avoid destructive behaviors such as trampling, lying in the flowers, etc. It's all about getting the shot, no matter what the cost. But I'm hopeful that over time, they will see that they can still get wonderful shots while keeping impact to a minimum. Thanks again!

  9. Yes, it frustrating to see people just doesn't care and not responsible of what they're doing. Instead of helping conserve these wild flowers they're the ones ruining it. It's about time to educate them on how they can help and be responsible. It's good to know there are people like you around who keeps reminding us regarding this matter. Thanks a lot.


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